TAMPA, Florida – Japanese internet giant SoftBank has entered into an alliance with OneWeb to expand its low-earth orbit (LEO) broadband services in Japan and around the world.
The collaboration with SoftBank, which has invested in OneWeb, is an important step towards obtaining regulatory approvals and setting up ground stations in Japan for the growing constellation of the startup.
SoftBank owns interests in technology, energy and financial companies around the world, and also operates a telecommunications company in Japan where it serves more than 45 million mobile subscribers and businesses.
OneWeb said its alliance will promote its combined communications services, including the platforms SoftBank is building to digitize the company’s operations.
SoftBank posted net income equivalent to nearly $ 46 billion for its fiscal year ended March 31, a record for a Japanese listed company.
Successful bets in the company’s $ 100 billion Vision Fund and its successor have boosted those numbers, including the gains of South Korean e-commerce company Coupang and food delivery service DoorDash when listed. in public markets.
The results will boost investor confidence in SoftBank founder Masa Son, who often talks about investing for a future when ubiquitous connectivity meets “singularity,” when machines can outperform humans.
Son blamed COVID-19 after SoftBank reported its first annual loss in 15 years in 2020, an operating loss of 1.36 trillion yen ($ 12.7 billion).
The Japanese company was one of the first investors in OneWeb. At one point, he attempted to create a merger between the startup and the established satellite fleet operator Intelsat, which operates spacecraft in geostationary orbit (GEO).
Intelsat Debt Holders rejected this case in 2017.
Struggling under nearly $ 15 billion in debt as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, Intelsat entered bankruptcy protection in May 2020 in a process it is still working on a year later.
COVID-19 also pushed OneWeb into bankruptcy in March 2020.
After the UK government and Indian telecommunications company Bharti Global rescued OneWeb from Chapter 11 in November, SoftBank returned with a capital injection of $ 350 million. Hughes Network Systems, which develops parts of OneWeb’s ground segment, has invested $ 50 million.
On April 27, French satellite operator Eutelsat paid $ 550 million to buy 24% of OneWeb.
OneWeb plans to raise the rest of the funds it needs to complete its constellation, estimated at around $ 500 million, later in 2021.
It has already launched more than a third of its fleet of 648 LEO satellites, ahead of its goal of launching partial services before the end of this year, and globally in 2022.
Within the framework of plans to create a new government subsidiary for the sale of its services, OneWeb announced on May 10 that it would purchase TrustComm, a Texas-based managed satellite provider, for an undisclosed sum.
The acquisition comes after OneWeb, which expects the Department of Defense to be its biggest customer, secured a demonstration contract with the US Air Force’s Research Laboratory (AFRL) for strategic sites in the Arctic. Hughes is the prime contractor for this contract.