OneWeb gets £18m boost for high-flying 5G

By Ken Wieland 21 February 2019

Oneweb 5G

The UK Space Agency fuelled the 5G ambitions of OneWeb, a satellite broadband startup based in London, with funding to the tune of £18m. Through its OneWeb Sunrise programme, the startup aims to integrate its planned satellite constellation with upcoming 5G terrestrial networks.

“Thanks to this support, we will focus together on next‑generation technologies that will be game changers for realising global 5G connectivity,” remarked Adrian Steckel, OneWeb’s Chief Executive.

The funding provided by the UK Space Agency comes via its membership of the European Space Agency (ESA). The new £18m investment will go towards meeting what UK Science Minister Chris Skidmore described as the “significant technical challenges” of the Sunrise project. Skidmore ambitiously added that he wanted the UK at the “forefront of cutting-edge research and development”.

According to the UK Space Agency, investment will support “novel automation techniques and artificial intelligence” as a way to manage the proposed constellation of spacecraft and interaction with terrestrial networks.

Up in the air

This is a nervous time for OneWeb and its backers, which include UK entrepreneur Richard Branson. The company’s first batch of ten next-gen satellites – which have much more capacity than older models – is scheduled for launch on 26 February. According to OneWeb’s website, its constellation might scale up to as many as 900 satellites, although around 650 satellites is the immediate target. 

The UK is among six ESA members in the OneWeb sunrise project, but is apparently the first to stump up cash for both phases of the programme. Phase one is analysis and design work, while phase two is building, launching and testing OneWeb Sunrise‑developed technologies. Other ESA members involved in Sunrise are France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. Canada is also a programme participant, working as a “cooperating state” with ESA. 

ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) works too with Sunrise. An ESA division, ARTES funds programmes through public-private partnerships, but shells out no more than 50% of the funds needed.

About Ken Wieland

Ken Wieland has been a telecoms journalist and editor for more than 20 years. That includes an eight-year stint as editor of Telecommunications magazine (international edition), three years as editor of Asian Communications, and nearly two years at Informa Telecoms & Media, specialising in mobile broadband. As a telecoms writer Ken has written various industry reports for The Economist Group.

View more posts by Ken Wieland >>>

The UK’s first 5G-enabled immersive lab has now opened

The UK’s first 5G-enabled immersive technology lab has just been unveiled at MediaCityUK.

LiveU plans to use 5G to upgrade live news and sport coverage

LiveU has partnered with AT&T to test 5G versions of the former’s portable video...

Vodafone is launching 5G on July 3rd in seven cities

Vodafone has announced its 5G launch date and 5G roaming.

O2 has enhanced its network in busy places ahead of 5G

O2 has massively improved its network in numerous stadiums, shopping centres and...

Vodafone and Telesat Demo Backhaul via LEO Satellites

Telesat, Vodafone, Newtec and the 5G Innovation Centre conduct industry’s first...