Satellite Startup Raises $1.2bn for Space Internet

oneweb space internet satellite
Space robots could save the satellite industry hundreds of millions of dollars. OneWeb

Space startup OneWeb has raised $1.2 billion to build and launch a constellation of satellites capable of delivering high-speed internet to developing countries.

OneWeb claims the funding drive, led by Japanese technology giant SoftBank, will allow it to begin production of the satellites in 2018, with the hope of connecting every unconnected school in the world by 2022.

“SoftBank has a long history of investing in disruptive, foundational technologies that promise to help us realize the future sooner,” said SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. “OneWeb is a tremendously exciting company poised to transform internet access around the world.”

OneWeb founder welcomed the significant investment from SoftBank, saying: “I have long admired Mr Son’s track record and his vision for the technologically-powered world…We look forward to working together as we execute on our mission to build a global knowledge infrastructure that provides affordable broadband to the over four billion people across the globe without internet access.”

OneWeb is one of several companies with plans to deliver universal internet access through various technologies, including drones, balloons, low-Earth orbit satellites and giant internet towers.

Elon Musk’s private aerospace company SpaceX filed documents last month with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposing a constellation of 4,425 satellites that would provide global internet coverage. It was not made clear in the filing when such satellites would be put into orbit.

The projects have been praised for their potential to connect the two-thirds of the planet without access to broadband, but critics have suggested some of them are motivated by private gains.

More people connected to the internet would mean more people using online services provided by the likes of Facebook and Google.

“We shouldn’t celebrate Facebook’s efforts to ‘bring the internet to all’ because that is not what they’re doing,” transparency advocate David Sasaki said in a blogpost published shortly after the unveiling of Facebook’s Internet.org foundation.

“When Zuckerberg says that access to the internet is a human right, what he means is that access to Facebook should be a human right.”