Some good news for satellite Internet company OneWeb:
Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. has agreed to invest roughly $500 million more in satellite broadband provider OneWeb Ltd., according to a person familiar with the details, boosting the U.S. startup’s plan to offer significantly faster internet connections world-wide than most traditional systems, either space-based or terrestrial.
The latest commitment would boost SoftBank’s total investment in the project to about $1.5 billion, even as Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder and executive chairman, disclosed over the weekend that his company already is designing and seeking suppliers for a more powerful new generation of satellites. He said those eventually are slated to deliver ultra-high-speed connectivity, including across rural or developing regions, approximately as fast as typical fiber optic networks.
The precise size and structure of SoftBank’s additional investment could change, said the person familiar with the details and others close to the talks. But Mr. Wyler and SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, they said, agreed in principle on the cash infusion during recent discussions, with the caveat that SoftBank’s stake in OneWeb would remain less than 50%.
Work on OneWeb’s previously announced initial fleet of more than 700 small, low-altitude satellites is “generally on schedule” for launches beginning next year, starting to market service over Alaska in 2019 and expanding virtually around the globe by the end of 2020, according to Mr. Wyler. During a weekend interview, he also said deployment of roughly 900 second-generation, higher-orbiting satellites by the mid-2020s—intended to create the first such large-scale, hybrid constellation on orbit—is projected to increase speeds roughly fivefold to 2.5 gigabits per second.