In the British-backed venture’s first partnership with a major U.S. phone operator, AT&T Inc. will utilize OneWeb’s low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide broadband to companies in remote places. OneWeb is competing with Elon Musk’s Starlink system to provide internet to individuals and companies in areas where terrestrial fixed as well as wireless connections are not viable. To attain critical mass, both are forming relationships with telecommunications providers.
Scott Mair, AT&T’s president in charge of network engineering and operations, said in a statement announcing the arrangement, “We’re expanding our network with one more choice to assist ensure that our corporate clients have the high-speed as well as low-latency connectivity they need.” The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Last year, the British government and Sunil Mittal, Indian billionaire, rescued OneWeb from bankruptcy. The company now plans to provide services in the northern latitudes by the close of the year. AT&T’s relationship follows agreements with BT Group Plc in the United Kingdom and Northwestel Inc. in Canada. Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation said it had secured partnerships with two “big country” telecom providers that it hasn’t named to bring Starlink closer to worldwide coverage. It also intends to go direct to consumers, unlike OneWeb.
OneWeb and Starlink are two of the most advanced companies in the low-Earth-orbit space race, which is attracting billions of dollars in funding. Traditional satellite firms, whose larger spacecraft orbit far further from Earth, ensuring their internet connections are slower, are threatened by the technology.
OneWeb (officially Network Access Associates Ltd) is a worldwide communications firm that is developing the ability to provide broadband satellite internet services around the world. The company has headquarters in California as well as a satellite production facility in Florida called OneWeb Satellites, which is a partnership with Space and Airbus Defence. WorldVu Satellites Ltd was the company’s previous name.
Greg Wyler created the company in 2012, and the first satellites were launched in February 2019. It declared bankruptcy in 2020 March after failing to obtain the necessary funds to finish the remaining 90 percent of the network’s construction and deployment. In November 2020, the company emerged from bankruptcy and restructuring with a revamped ownership group led by the UK government and Indian multinational firm Bharti Global, each owning 42 percent of the company’s shares and board of directors. OneWeb reiterated its commitment to expanding its satellite constellation. SoftBank still owns a 12% stake in the company. The UK Government and Bharti Global’s proportion of participation will decrease as more investments are made to accomplish the very first phase of satellite deployments.