Satellite companies OneWeb and Eutelsat have agreed a $3.4 billion merger to create a player in global Internet connections that competes with SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper. Combined, the two companies say they will combine low-Earth orbit satellites that provide shorter lag and faster connections with geostationary satellites that have greater capability and cover wider areas, with Hee OneWeb continues to operate as its own brand under Eutelsat.
France-based Eutelsat provides television and internet through 36 satellites in geostationary orbits around the Earth’s equator. OneWeb, which launched its first Internet-broadcast satellite in early 2019, currently has about 428 of the 648 satellites it plans as part of its group and so far as a provider to governments and others. Deals focused on working as Businesses like AT&T.
Amazon’s low-Earth orbit satellite Internet venture Project Kuiper has booked 83 launch flights over a five-year period to deliver its planned constellation of 3,236 satellites, but has yet to make any launches. SpaceX Starlink, by comparison, has already launched thousands of satellites, has more than 250,000 customers, and is currently offering high-speed Internet service with multiple service options in dozens of countries. For more information on the current state of satellite-delivered Internet, take a look at our video describing the current state and potential impact of satellite Internet services.
“Bringing our two businesses together will provide a global first by combining LEO Constellations and GEO assets to seize the significant growth opportunity in connectivity,” said Eutelsat Chairman Dominique D’. Hinnin said in a press release. “This combination will accelerate the commercialization of OneWeb’s fleet, while increasing the attractiveness of Eutelsat’s growth profile.”
OneWeb initially competed with SpaceX to provide Internet to the Arctic. In March 2021, the company launched 36 satellites into space and announced in July last year that it had completed its “five to 50” mission to provide coverage from the North Pole to the 50th parallel. It was targeting global coverage until June this year, but planned launches from Russia were cut after the country invaded Ukraine. As Russia launched in an effort to extract demands from OneWeb, the company was forced to switch to SpaceX as it wanted to round out its constellation.
Existing OneWeb shareholders will end up with a 50 percent stake in Eutelsat after the merger is completed, which could happen in the first half of 2023. The approval process also includes navigating the UK’s National Security and Investment Act to assess any potential threats. The merger may threaten national security.