UK buys stake in OneWeb satellite operator

The UK government bought a stake in the satellite operator OneWeb, which had previously filed for bankruptcy. The country plans to create its own satellite Internet system.

After an unsuccessful launch of the EU Galileo satellite navigation system, the UK decided to replace it with OneWeb satellites. A government consortium won an auction to buy back a company that declared bankruptcy in March.

If the American bankruptcy court approves the application, the UK will pay $500 million for a share of about 45%, another 45% will be bought by Indian telecommunications company Bharti Airtel. They will finance the full resumption of OneWeb, the company said. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2020.

Earlier, the government planned to build its Galileo replacement system with the help of other Five Eyes members – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. The project was suspended in May before the publication of a feasibility study. The estimated cost of the project by that time had grown to 5 billion pounds (6.2 billion US dollars).

Earlier, the British telecommunications company OneWeb filed for bankruptcy. This became known from a statement that the company sent to the Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York. The same document can be found on the OneWeb website. This happened after the company was unable to coordinate financing with investors due to the global crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

OneWeb was committed to providing full Earth coverage with satellite Internet by 2027. To do this, they wanted to launch about 900 satellites into low orbit. Project investors included Virgin Holdings by Richard Branson, Qualcomm, AirBus, Japanese investment company SoftBank, and Coca-Cola.