Intelsat-OneWeb Merger Collapses

Intelsat has announced that its planned merger with startup satellite Internet provider OneWeb has collapsed.

The complex deal put together by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp would have required holders of Intelsat’s $14 billion debt to accept discounts on what they are owed. The proposed debt swap found no takers prior to the May 31 deadline for accepting it. Intelsat and OneWeb had extended the deadline several times.

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SpaceX Outlines Plan to Launch 12,000 Satellites to Provide Global Broadband

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of the EchoStar XXIII spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center March 16 at 2 a.m. EDT. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX Vice President Patricia Cooper outlined the company’s plans to provide global broadband with 12,000 satellites to the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday.

The initial constellation would consist of 4,425 satellites operating in 83 orbital planes at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km. The satellites would provide broadband and other communications services in the Ka- and Ku-band spectrum.

“To implement the system, SpaceX will utilize the availability of significantly more powerful computing and software capabilities, which will enable SpaceX to allocate broadband resources in real time, placing capacity where it is most needed and directing energy away from areas where it might cause interference to other systems, either in space or on the ground,” Cooper said in her prepared testimony. [Prepared Statement — PDF]

“Because the satellites will beam directly to gateways or user terminals, the infrastructure needed on the ground—particularly in rural or remote areas—is substantially reduced, essentially addressing the “last mile” challenge and helping to close the digital divide,” she added. “In other words, the common challenges associated with siting, digging trenches, laying fiber, and dealing with property rights are materially alleviated through a space-based broadband network.”

The company plans to launch two test satellites at the end of this year and in early 2018. SpaceX would begin launching operational satellites beginning in 2019, with all 4,425 spacecraft being in orbit by 2024.

“For the end consumer, SpaceX user terminals—essentially, a relatively small flat panel, roughly the size of a laptop—will use similar phased array technologies to allow for highly directive, steered antenna beams that track the system’s low-Earth orbit satellites,” Cooper said in her testimony. “In space, the satellites will communicate with each other using optical inter-satellite links, in effect creating a “mesh network” flying overhead that will enable seamless network management and continuity of service.”

SpaceX has filed a separate application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch a constellation of V-band 7,500 satellites that would operate at lower altitudes than the original constellation.

“In the future, these satellites would provide additional broadband capacity to the SpaceX system and further reduce latency where populations are heavily concentrated,” Cooper testified.

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Report: Apple Hires Google Satellite Execs, Eyes Boeing Broadband Constellation

Credit: The Boeing Company

Bloomberg has an intriguing report about Apple, Boeing and te emerging battle to provide global broadband services via constellations of satellites.

The iPhone maker has recruited a pair of top Google satellite executives for a new hardware team, according to people familiar with the matter. John Fenwick, who led Google’s spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering, left Alphabet Inc.’s Google for Apple in recent weeks, the people said. They report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of camera maker Dropcam, who joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. They asked not to be identified talking about Apple’s private plans. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, as did Google. Fenwick, Trela and Duffy didn’t respond to requests for comment….

In a regulatory filing last year, Boeing Co. detailed a plan to provide broadband access through more than 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. The aerospace company has talked with Apple about the technology company being an investor-partner in the project, a person familiar with the situation said. It’s unclear if those talks will result in a deal….

Still, TMF’s Farrar said there’s no guarantee Apple will get involved in the Boeing project. The satellite industry is littered with bankruptcies and other failures. Satellite telephone company Iridium LLC filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999, and Teledesic abandoned its “internet from the sky” plan more than a decade ago.

Indeed, Apple may have hired the Google executives for something other than satellite work. It’s already trying to use drones to capture and update map information faster than its existing fleet of camera-and-sensor ladened minivans. And in 2015, it acquired Aether Industries LLC, which develops near-space technology such as high bandwidth radio transceivers and high-altitude balloons.

Read the full story.

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OneWeb Breaks Ground on Satellite Factory at Kennedy

One Web Satellites Ground Breaking ceremony at Exploration Park. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The portfolio of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will soon include large-scale satellite manufacturing following Thursday’s groundbreaking for a 150,000-square foot spacecraft factory in the center’s Exploration Park.

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Google Patent for Satellite Constellation

Video Caption: A few weeks back, a news went viral that Google is quitting the satellite business. Well, I think this is total BS.

The truth is that Google has just quit the satellite imaging business and not the satellite communication business. These are two totally different technologies with totally different applications.

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SpaceX Wants to Launch 12,000 Satellites

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has filed a new application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approval to launch a constellation of 7,518 satellites to provide communications in the little used V band.

The system is in addition to  another constellations of 4,425 satellites (plus orbital spares) SpaceX proposed in November that would operate in the Ku and Ka bands. In total, the two constellations would have 11,943 spacecraft plus spares.

“When combined into a single, coordinated system, these ‘LEO’ and ‘VLEO’ constellations will enable SpaceX to provide robust broadband services on a full and continuous global basis,” SpaceX said in its application.

Competitor OneWeb has submitted a new application that would add an additional 2,000 satellites capable of operating in the V-band to its planned constellation of 720 satellites.

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Intelsat, OneWeb Announce Conditional Combination Agreement

Luxembourg, Jersey, and Tokyo, Japan, February 28, 2017 (Intelsat PR) — Intelsat (NYSE: I) and OneWeb today announced that they have entered into a definitive combination agreement pursuant to which Intelsat and OneWeb will merge in a share-for-share transaction. Intelsat and SoftBank Group Corp. (“SoftBank”) also entered into a definitive share purchase agreement pursuant to which SoftBank will invest $1.7 billion in newly issued common and preferred shares of the combined company. Both the merger and the SoftBank investment are subject to, among other conditions, successful completion of debt exchange offers to certain existing Intelsat bondholders as well as receipt of certain regulatory approvals.

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Report: OneWeb, Intelsat Merger in the Works

An interesting story from Sky News:

The Japanese technology investor SoftBank is hatching plans for a multi-billion dollar merger of two major satellite companies – OneWeb and Intelsat – in a deal that would create a global powerhouse in the fast-changing arena of space technology.

Sky News has learnt that discussions involving a combination of OneWeb – shareholders in which include Airbus, The Coca-Cola Company and Virgin Group – and Intelsat are at an advanced stage.

Intelsat is also a small shareholder in OneWeb.

One source indicated that a deal could be outlined when Intelsat, which is listed in New York, reports financial results on Tuesday.

If the talks are successfully concluded, an announcement would come just two months after SoftBank invested $1bn in OneWeb, a move designed to help it build the world’s first high-volume satellite production facility in Florida.

SolAero’s $10 Million Expansion Keyed to OneWeb Contract

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (SolAero PR) –- SolAero Technologies Corp (SolAero), a leading provider of high efficiency solar cells, solar panels, and composite structural products, announced a $10 million program investment to augment its existing solar panel production capabilities in support of the growing market for commercial satellite constellations. This significant commitment includes the construction of a new 40,000 square foot facility at its headquarters in Albuquerque, NM. Once complete, this facility will contain the world’s only vertically-integrated, end-to-end satellite solar panel production capability. The project will create more than 100 new jobs at SolAero and its partners and will represent the leading industry benchmark for space solar power technology.

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SpaceX Expanding Operations in Redmond, Los Angeles

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX continues to expand, with the company setting up a satellite research and development (R&D) laboratory in Washington State and expanding the space it leases from the Port of Los Angeles.

The R&D laboratory is designed for SpaceX’s planned 4,425-satellite constellation that would provide Internet and other communications services around the world.

SpaceX has taken on a 40,625-square-foot facility in Redmond, Wash., that will become a research and development lab for its ambitious satellite operation.

The warehouse-style space in the Redmond Ridge Corporate Center, owned by M&T Partners, is slated for a $2.1 million interior remodeling job, according to a permit application filed last month with King County.

SpaceX is already using a 30,000-square-foot office building that’s about a 10-minute drive away in Redmond.
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Analysis: SpaceX’s Revenue Projections for Satellite Internet Too Optimistic

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

A new analysis of SpaceX’s plans to have revenues of $30 billion per year for its global satellite Internet project is “too optimistic” and could damage the industry’s credibility by creating unrealistic expectations. It also claims that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly manipulated financial analysts with “totally unrealistic” schedules and projections.

Here’s an excerpt from the story. [Emphasis original]

WSJ’s [Wall Street Journal’s] article notes that SpaceX expects to attract over 40 M subscribers by 2025. The largest satellite Internet network today is operated by HughesNet, which has slightly above 1M subs after nearly a decade of operation. Combining ViaSat’s Exede and HughesNet, the year with the highest number of new subscribers was in the 300-350,000 range, which hints at how difficult it is to build the distribution channels for this kind of service. Of course, cheap, self-installation terminals and a global operation infrastructure could accelerate service take-up, but it appears very difficult to reach the 40M installed base in just 5 years. Compounding all of the above, one must not forget regulatory barriers as SpaceX would need to pursue landing rights in each and every country it wants to operate….

The best way to predict the future is building it, and NSR will only be pleased to see the satellite industry growing to the levels forecasted by SpaceX, as it would be beneficial for everyone. While it is true that forecasting revenues for such innovative ventures has a significant level of uncertainty, NSR nonetheless believes the $30 billion revenue projection is too optimistic no matter what assumptions are made and could stoke unrealistic expectations undermining the industry’s credibility.

One must also consider that SpaceX are masters of strategic communications and have repeatedly made extravagant announcements to push analysts, the financial community, the industry and employees in its favor. It is its CEO managing style, the day after he announced a totally unrealistic schedule and sales target for Tesla’s Model 3, auto analysts universally moved their own estimates up satisfying what probably was the original goal, shifting the paradigm. SpaceX has said very clearly that it plans a step deployment of the constellation starting commercial operations with a “modest” 800 satellite constellation (compared with the 4,420 of the full deployment), which hints at the venture having different growth scenarios with more reasonable assumptions. When analyzing SpaceX projections, being an investor, a competitor or an industry watcher, one must keep its independence and not fall in this expectations trap. Otherwise, industry’s credibility would be at risk.

Read the full story.

OneWeb Hires Airbus Veteran as CEO

OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)
OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

LONDON, 26 July 2016 (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, announces the appointment of Eric Beranger as Chief Executive Officer.

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Dish Network Battles OneWeb & SpaceX Over Spectrum Allocation

OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)
OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

The battle over the allocation of Ku-band spectrum is heating up.

A coalition of 5G terrestrial mobile broadband companies led by Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network on June 8 asked U.S. regulators to strip future low-orbiting satellite Internet constellations of their priority access to 500 megahertz of Ku-band spectrum – spectrum coveted by prospective constellation operators including OneWeb LLC and SpaceX.

SpaceX and satellite fleet operator Intelsat, a OneWeb investor and partner, immediately filed separate opposition papers to the FCC, arguing that nongeostationary-orbit (NGSO) constellations are very much alive.

In a June 8 submission to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the coalition says the low-orbiting satellite constellations in Ku-band have provided no credible evidence that they will ever be built. Even if they are, there is plenty of spectrum available in both Ku- and Ka-band, the coalition said.

“There is simply no basis to jeopardize 5G [Multi-Channel Video Distribution and Data Service, or MVDDS] deployment to give additional spectrum to a speculative NGSO service that already has access to ample spectrum,” the MVDDA Coalition said in its FCC petition, referring specifically to OneWeb.

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OneWeb Files for License in United States

OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)
OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

WASHINGTON, DC (OneWeb PR) — Today, OneWeb filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission seeking access to the U.S. market for its planned low earth orbit satellite system.
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