TOKYO — SoftBank’s satellite director said his company’s $1 billion-plus investment in low-orbiting constellation startup OneWeb is just “the first step” in the company’s connectivity strategy.
Tetsuji Katayama also said Softbank’s relationship with Intelsat remains strong despite Intelsat bondholders’ rejection of Softbank’s debt-repurchase offer. The bondholder decision did not affect Intelsat’s existing agreements with OneWeb and Softbank.
“SoftBank is a newcomer in the satellite industry,” Katayama told the APSCC 2017 conference here. “Satellite will play a more prominent role in global connectivity in the coming IoT [Internet of Things] era. As a first step, we invested in OneWeb, with a significant commitment.
“This is a starting point for SoftBank for global connectivity. We want to enhance our business with any potential partners in like-minded companies. Intelsat is an original shareholder in OneWeb and we are looking forward to working closely with Intelsat for mutual business with LEO-GEO interoperability in the future.”
OneWeb’s constellation of around 900 satellites including spares is scheduled to begin launching in 2018, with initial commercial service in 2020. The network includes some 40 gateway Earth stations, depending on regulatory requirements.
“SoftBank is fully committed to the success of the project,” Katayama said. “Again: this is a starting point for SoftBank in global connectivity.
Japan-based SoftBank began to understand the value of satellites through more than 3,000 base stations used for backhaul services, mainly in remote and rural areas where terrestrial fiber does not reach.
Many of these stations connect to Thaicom’s IpStar Ku-band HTS broadband satellite. “We are committed to using satellite for cellular backhaul and to expand our coverage in the future.