OneWeb gets OK for additional 1,280 satellites

The FCC approved OneWeb’s proposal for an additional 1,280 V-band satellites, saying it will enhance the company’s ability to offer broadband services in the United States.

The 1,280 satellites are on top of the 720 Ku/Ka-band constellation that was previously approved by the commission.

The mission of OneWeb, whose previous investors include SoftBank Group, Qualcomm and Hughes, has been to connect the un- or under-connected around the world.

The FCC said in its ruling that granting OneWeb access to the U.S. market for its proposed V-band satellites system would increase competition for broadband services to American consumers, particularly in underserved areas. Approval also offers a greater likelihood that such a large system is able to fulfill its ambitions, the commission said.

The OneWeb constellation also must be authorized by the United Kingdom.

“We are pleased to hear the FCC granted our V-Band application,” OneWeb said in a statement. “The V-band is critical for next generation satellite broadband services. OneWeb looks forward to the future growth opportunities this approval will enable as we commercialize our spectrum and execute on our mission to bring low latency connectivity to communities, governments, businesses, and people in the U.S. and around the world.”

OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in March, saying the coronavirus was upending the markets so much that it couldn’t obtain needed financing. In July, the U.K. government swooped in, pledging to provide $500 million and taking an equity share in OneWeb. Bharti Global kicked in another $500 million.

RELATED: OneWeb gets $1B from U.K. government, Bharti

OneWeb so far has launched 74 satellites. Earlier this year, it submitted a modification request (PDF) to the FCC to increase the number of satellites in its constellation up to 48,000, saying the larger constellation would allow for greater flexibility to meet global connectivity demands. That filing remains pending.

OneWeb’s ambitions are similar to some other satellite systems that are in the works. In July, the FCC unanimously voted to approve Amazon’s plan to deploy 3,236 satellites as part of its Project Kuiper to deliver satellite-based broadband services across the U.S.

SpaceX received FCC approval a couple years ago to launch thousands of satellites and a modification request is pending.

License holders in the 12 GHz band claim its modification plans would impair the Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS) operating in the band. The MVDDS community, which includes Dish Network and RS Access, argue that the rules for the 12 GHz band should be changed to allow it to be used for 5G services.