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UK satellite Internet firm OneWeb files for bankruptcy

Written by Tue 31 Mar 2020

Hotly tipped startup blames coronavirus, but cash was short before the crisis

British satellite Internet company OneWeb has filed for bankruptcy in the US after attempts to secure funding for a commercial launch were checked by coronavirus fears.

The firm, which had already secured billions in funding from investors such as Softbank, Qualcomm and the Government of Rwanda, had hoped to take its space-bound internet service commercial before the end of next year.

The company had already launched 74 satellites, began development on user terminals for several markets, almost completed 44 ground stations and performed numerous demonstrations of its system’s capabilities.

OneWeb said it had been “advanced negotiations” for funding to support a commercial launch but said “the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of COVID-19″ has ended its hopes of securing the cash. The company is now seeking a buyer:

“Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We remain convinced of the social and economic value of our mission to connect everyone everywhere,” Adrian Steckel, chief executive officer of OneWeb, stated.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we have been forced to reduce our workforce and enter the Chapter 11 process while the Company’s remaining employees are focused on responsibly managing our nascent constellation and working with the Court and investors.”

Satellite internet technology has garnered significant interest in recent years as a means of connecting areas of the globe to the Internet where it’s infeasible or uneconomical to use traditional fibre or cellular technologies.

With satellite Internet, latency is the main concern, not speed. OneWeb’s USP is that its satellites orbit closer to the earth than others, enabling the company to reduce latency and thus make the technology viable enough for most commercial applications. OneWeb had demonstrated speeds of 400Mbps and latency below 32 milliseconds.

Written by Tue 31 Mar 2020

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