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

Just a few months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, OneWeb is getting back into orbit thanks to a consortium led by the U.K. government and India’s Bharti Global.

The U.K. government is set to provide $500 million and take an equity share in OneWeb, while Bharti Global will kick in another $500 million. Bharti Global is part of a group that controls the third largest mobile operator in the world, Bharti Airtel, which will serve as a testing ground for OneWeb services.

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. Bharti has a presence across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the terrain requires satellite-based connectivity, providing a near-term anchor customer for OneWeb’s services.

The deal enables OneWeb to complete construction of its global satellite constellation and provide enhanced broadband and other services to countries around the world.

However, in its release, the U.K. government said it will have a final say over any future sale of the company and, citing national security, over which countries can access OneWeb technology.

OneWeb, which has manufacturing facilities in Florida, stated that it remains ready to continue building its communications system to deliver connectivity available everywhere, including to businesses and people in remote and rural parts of the world, starting with the Arctic.

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“We are delighted to have concluded the sale process with such a positive outcome that will benefit not only OneWeb’s existing creditors, but also our employees, vendors, commercial partners, and supporters worldwide who believe in the mission and in the promise of global connectivity,” said OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel in a statement. “With differentiated and flexible technology, unique spectrum assets and a compelling market opportunity ahead of us, we are eager to conclude the process and get back to launching our satellites as soon as possible.”

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The transaction, which is expected to close by the fourth quarter, is subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and regulatory authorities.  

OneWeb so far has launched 74 satellites. Earlier this year, it submitted a modification request 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.