UK space internet firm OneWeb ready for lift-off

Rocket launchImage copyright

UK based start-up OneWeb has secured $1.25bn (£940m) in new funding enabling it to speed up its plans to launch a global high-speed broadband network.

The firm said the money meant its 2021 launch was now “inevitable”.

The funding comes after the company successfully launched its first satellites for the service last month.

The firm is competing with several rivals, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which is aiming to build a similar network for global internet coverage.

Their aim is to bring the internet to parts of the world where there is currently no broadband, or a patchy service.

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The latest funding round means OneWeb has now raised $3.4bn in total from a host of investors including Japanese technology giant Softbank, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, drinks giant Coca-Cola and chip-maker Qualcomm.

The company said the money would enable it – by the end of the year – to start monthly launches of more than 30 satellites.

Eventually these satellites will create a constellation aimed at providing full global internet coverage.

To provide global internet coverage, there will need to be 650 units in orbit, but the ultimate number could rise to around 2,000.

The firm claims the monthly launches will be “the largest satellite launch campaign in history”.

American telecoms entrepreneur Greg Wyler told the BBC last month that his aim was to help people in developing countries.

“If you look across emerging markets where there is no internet access or very limited access, generally you see poverty.

“Health-care issues, gender inequality – whatever issue you can come up with, they all fall within that same map. The fundamental underlying thing is that people don’t have opportunity; they don’t have opportunity to learn, to take themselves out of poverty, to build their communities, and that’s why connectivity is so important.”