Virgin Galactic joining the space race for broadband with OneWeb

Lauren Fedor
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BRITISH-BASED satellite operator OneWeb, which wants to sell internet service via satellites, said yesterday that it has signed multi-million dollar contracts with spaceflight companies Virgin Galactic and Arianespace for 60 flights.

OneWeb, which is privately-owned and based in Britain's Channel Islands, also said that it has raised $500m (£318m) from a group of global investors, including Airbus, which will design and build 900 satellites for the project.

OneWeb plans to put a network of 648 small satellites into orbit to provide global broadband and mobile telephone services in 2018. About 250 additional satellites will be kept on the ground as spares.

The company has estimated the cost of the project at between $1.5bn and $2bn (£1.27bn).

OneWeb said other backers in the $500m funding included Coca-Cola, Qualcomm, Bharti Enterprises, Coca-Cola, Grupo Salinas and Hughes Network Systems.

OneWeb chief executive and founder Greg Wyler previously worked at Google on another project to beam internet access from space, but left Google last year to work on his own satellite project, named WorldVu, which later became OneWeb.

Google, along with Fidelity, invested $1bn (£635m) earlier this year in another Internet-via-satellite project being developed by SpaceX, an initiative of Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk.

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