Eutelsat & OneWeb set to build the second generation constellation
During financial results, Eutelsat CEO Eva Berneke stated that a search for companies to construct OneWeb’s second-generation constellation would most likely commence by the end of June. The RFP (request for proposals) is anticipated to allow for launches to begin in 2025 or 2026 for a low Earth orbit (LEO) network with an estimated cost of $4 billion.
Gen 2’s needs will be covered by launch options reserved by the companies, which include new rockets created by Arianespace, Blue Origin, and Relativity Space. According to Berneke, replenishment plans for OneWeb’s current generation of 648 proposed satellites would only extend the constellation’s lifespan to 2027 or 2028.
The next-generation constellation is expected to enable faster speeds and denser coverage with many more satellites, even though the specifications have not yet been finalized. OneWeb has thus far deployed 542 satellites, while SpaceX and India’s space agency intend to launch a batch of satellites in late February and early March, giving OneWeb global coverage once they become operational by January 2024.
The French geostationary satellite operator, Eutelsat, is reportedly making good progress in obtaining the final regulatory approvals needed from France and the United States to acquire OneWeb through a merger deal that was announced last year. Unlike Viasat’s plan to purchase British operator Inmarsat, the Eutelsat-OneWeb deal did not raise any concerns from Europe regarding a potential reduction in competition in the satellite services market.
According to CEO Rodolphe Belmer, there were no regulatory questions raised that were not typical, and there is no overlap between OneWeb’s and Eutelsat’s markets, as they operate in different orbits with no competing capacities. However, Belmer emphasized the need for regulators to fully understand the satellite market, especially given the newness of the constellation market. Assuming that Eutelsat’s shareholders approve the transaction, the company expects to complete the OneWeb deal in the second or third quarter of this year.
Despite a declining market for satellite TV, OneWeb has provided a bright spot in the financial results of Eutelsat. For the six months ending December 2022, Eutelsat’s total revenues decreased by 6.1% compared to the same period in 2021, when adjusted for currency changes on a like-for-like basis.
However, fixed broadband revenues and sales of mobile connectivity services increased by 17% and 33%, respectively. Meanwhile, government revenues decreased by 20% due to non-renewals from the U.S. Department of Defense, and broadcast activity sales fell by 6.7%.
Eutelsat is also experiencing difficulties due to sanctions on Russian and Iranian channels, which are expected to cause a slight deterioration in revenues for the six months ending June. To pivot towards connectivity services, Eutelsat has heavily invested in geostationary communication satellites and has purchased OneWeb. Two of the four satellites launched for Eutelsat in the second half of 2022, Konnect VHTS and Eutelsat 10B, focus on broadband markets.