Mar 31, 2020 - Science

OneWeb's bankruptcy may be a sign of things to come for satellite internet

Earth seen from space by night.

Earth seen from space by night. Photo: NASA

OneWeb's bankruptcy, announced Friday, could mark the beginning of a shakeout for companies hoping to make a profit using constellations of small satellites to beam internet to people on Earth.

The big picture: Analysts have been concerned that the market for satellite internet likely can't support more than one or two companies aiming to develop these constellations.

  • OneWeb's exit places SpaceX as the front-runner to get its own satellite internet business up and running, with Amazon's Kuiper still in the early stages and a handful of other companies at varying stages of development.

Details: U.K.-based OneWeb has launched 74 satellites, and its bankruptcy — which was in part due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic — may mark a turning point for the market, industry analyst Tim Farrar told Axios.

  • The pandemic will likely create a complicated environment for even well-situated companies looking to raise funds for their satellite internet constellations.
  • "I think it's going to be very difficult for people to raise money to move forward," Farrar told Axios.

Between the lines: OneWeb was the most high-profile satellite internet company advocating for other companies with large satellite constellations to go above and beyond in their efforts to reduce the creation of space junk.

  • With OneWeb's exit, it's unclear whether those conversations about using space responsibly will continue to have a place of prominence.

The bottom line: OneWeb's bankruptcy doesn't mark the end of the line for the satellite internet market at large, but it could be a harbinger of things to come, with some analysts predicting a shakeout is inevitable.

Go deeper: The earthly limit on satellite ambitions

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