Satellite operator Eutelsat has agreed to acquire a major stake in OneWeb for US$550M to widen its business in offshore and maritime
The European-listed company intends to complement its own existing geostationary satellite network with the low earth orbit (LEO) constellation being constructed by OneWeb, enabling ships to switch communications between Eutelsat’s satellites and OneWeb’s new network more easily when it is commissioned later this year.
Eutelsat is purchasing a 24% stake in OneWeb to join the UK Government and Bharti Global as the main shareholders in the company. Completion of this transaction is expected in H2 2021 subject to regulatory approvals.
By that time, OneWeb could be testing its communications in the offshore sector using around 220 LEO satellites.
OneWeb head of maritime Carole Plessy said the satellite constellation would be ready for commercial testing with offshore fixed platforms in northern latitudes in Q4 2021.
It has 182 LEO satellites in orbit, after launching the latest 36 units on 26 April, and plans two more launches in the next two months. “Our connectivity should reach all regions north of 50° latitude by June 2021,” Ms Plessy said.
Its services will cover the UK, Alaska, northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, Canada and the Arctic seas. “Once we have 220 satellites over the poles, we will have enough for 24/7 coverage,” she explained. “We are looking to deploy equipment in October for commercial trials.”
OneWeb plans to offer full maritime services by the end of 2022. UK-based AST is its first partner and Intellian is developing end-user terminals.
OneWeb expects to operate 648 LEO satellites and deliver 1.1 Tbps of capacity from the network. It anticipates annual revenues of around US$1Bn within three to five years following the full deployment of the constellation.
Eutelsat’s investment means OneWeb is almost fully funded for its current development strategy.
“We are excited to become a shareholder and partner in OneWeb in the run up to its commercial launch and to participate in the substantial opportunity represented by the non-geostationary segment within our industry,” said Eutelsat chief executive Rodolphe Belmer.
“We are confident in OneWeb thanks to its earliness to market, priority spectrum rights and evolving and scalable technology,” he said. “We look forward to working alongside the UK Government, Bharti and the other shareholders to open new opportunities and market access to ensure OneWeb maximises its potential,” Mr Belmer added. “OneWeb will become our main growth engine outside our broadcast and broadband applications.”
Satellite communications and online connectivity will be discussed during Riviera Maritime Media’s series of virtual webinars, forums, conferences and technology days in 2021 - use this link for more details and to register on the events page