SoftBank to sell OneWeb satellite services

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Major investor SoftBank will sell OneWeb backhaul connections to mobile operators worldwide

Japanese operator SoftBank, which owns a majority stake in Sprint, will be marketing wholesale satellite backhaul services to mobile companies worldwide.

The role follows SoftBank’s $1 billion investment in the OneWeb satellite project in December 2016, part of a $1.2 billion funding round.

OneWeb, whose other backers include Qualcomm, Airbus, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat and Virgin, will be a low-earth orbit network of 720 tiny satellites that will connect new base stations in remote areas with very low latency. 

“The entry of SoftBank was a very important step for us,” OneWeb CEO Eric Béranger told Global Telecoms Business in an interview. “SoftBank will want to market our services to every part of the world.” The full interview will be published in the next issue of the magazine. 

Discussions have already started with possible partners in the mobile industry. OneWeb will supply terminals that will deliver mobile and Wifi signals in the immediate area and connect with the company’s satellites 1200km above the earth – a distance that means round-trip latency of only 8ms.

The focus will be on remote and unconnected areas, said Béranger. “There are 55 million US citizens who are unconnected, and 61% of Asia and the Pacific are unconnected or badly connected.” But OneWeb will also be able to provide connections to ships and aircraft.

The first 10 OneWeb satellites are due for launch in early 2018, with the whole fleet of 720 due to be in service by the end of 2019.