Brexit Britain WIN as Galileo alternative one step closer with £200m South Korea backing

Europe showing ‘interest’ in OneWeb says David Morris

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Hanwha, one of the country’s biggest conglomerates, has become the latest to place their trust in OneWeb –  the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband constellation. The company was acquired by the Government, along with Bharti Global, from bankruptcy to provide “global” Internet coverage. It brings the total investment to £1.95billion.

The tech company, based in London, recently declared itself “financially stable” after raising the £1.73billion funding necessary to roll out the remaining 650 satellites in its constellation.

Now, understands the increased investment could lay the foundations for financing a second generation of satellites with more advanced communications and positioning capabilities than those currently being launched.

Hanwha is making the investment via Hanwha Systems, the defence systems division that last year acquired Phasor Solutions, a British satellite antenna start-up.

The group will have a seat on OneWeb’s board.

OneWeb said the addition of one of South Korea’s leading defence groups as a shareholder would bring relationships with new Government customers and an expanded geographical reach.

Neil Masterson, OneWeb chief executive, said Hanwha would also bring “advanced defence and antenna technology” to the table.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, chair of Bharti Enterprises and of OneWeb, described Hanwha as a “powerful partner” for the satellite group.

Hanwha’s investment is due to be completed in the first half of 2022, subject to regulatory approvals.

OneWeb, which has 254 satellites in orbit already, is aiming to launch a limited commercial service in northern regions later this year and a global offering by the end of 2022.

Chair of the Parliamentary Space Committee David Morris said OneWeb is a “testament to what Brexit Britain can achieve”.

He added: “It shows what can be done without the bureaucratic grip of the EU and it will pave the way for the Prime Minister’s plan for the UK to become a science superpower.

“It also vindicates the Government’s investment in OneWeb at my insistence.”

It comes after OneWeb teamed up with Airbus, Europe’s largest space company, to “design and manufacture” satellites at Orbit House – Airbus’ new state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly new space and defence headquarters.

Mr Morris previously said that it also sets the UK up with another huge opportunity.

He said: “There’s a potential here for OneWeb and Airbus to work together even more in the future.

“Those two, together, could produce a system capable of rivalling Galileo.

“Airbus had a stake in OneWeb before it went bankrupt.

“It has already been working in some capacity with OneWeb, but now we are in the driving seat.

“We can now call the shots on where we take the new technology.”

The EU chucked the UK out of its Galileo programme following the UK’s decision to leave the bloc.

The Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) goes live in 2026, and will feature a Public Regulated Service (PRS) that can be used by government agencies, armed forces and emergency services.

It came after the EU decided this “crucial feature” would only be accessible for bloc members, despite the UK playing a decisive part in its development.

OneWeb was designed as a broadband constellation first and foremost – it will provide rural 4G, and one day 5G, Internet signals across the nation.

It will operate in LEO, as opposed to the medium Earth orbits used by Galileo and GPS.

While current plans will see OneWeb’s first run of satellites used for broadband, it has been tipped by some for future developments that could include navigation capacity like Galileo.

But others are not so sure and the system has come under fire from experts over the last year.

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