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OneWeb continues Alaska, Arctic push with TrustComm buy

OneWeb has brokered a deal to acquire TrustComm, the US-based satellite services firm it partnered with a couple of months ago to further its push into the US government, looking particularly at northern latitudes.

Mary Lennighan

May 11, 2021

3 Min Read
satellite

OneWeb has brokered a deal to acquire TrustComm, the US-based satellite services firm it partnered with a couple of months ago to further its push into the US government, looking particularly at northern latitudes.

The companies did not share details on the value of the deal, but said that, regulatory approvals pending, they expect it to close later this year.

It is not wholly clear what OneWeb expects to gain from the transaction, given that it inked its partnership deal with TrustComm as recently as late March. The company, which was famously bailed out by the UK government when it went bankrupt just over a year ago and is now working hard to establish itself as a credible rival to fellow low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite operator SpaceX, says the deal will enable it to offer its services to US government clients and TrustComm customers… but that’s pretty much what it said when it signed the previous partnership agreement with TrustComm.

“OneWeb’s acquisition of TrustComm underpins our strategy to rapidly scale satellite communications service to the US Department of Defense and other government agencies as they look to integrate high throughput, low latency solutions to meet new connectivity demands,” said Dylan Browne, OneWeb’s Head of Government Services this week. “We are excited to have TrustComm join our team and leverage their strong reputation providing the remote communications our customers want, particularly in Alaska and the Arctic.”

The Arctic region has been a key area of focus for OneWeb since it emerged from bankruptcy late last year. Indeed, the region is of paramount importance to all the new and more established crop of satellite operators currently filling the skies with satellites, since it represents relatively uncharted territory for connectivity. It is also an area of interest to commercial organisations and the governments of some of the world’s major economies.

Last week Hughes Network Systems and OneWeb announced they had been chosen by the US Air Force Research Lab to demonstrate managed LEO satellite comms services to connect the Arctic region to sites around the world. The deal will see Hughes test and implement the end-to-end services on the OneWeb system.

Given that OneWeb already had a foot in this market, it must believe that taking the partnership with TrustComm to the next level will enable it to gain a rung or two on the ladder. It noted that TrustComm will become a OneWeb subsidiary and will continue to be led by current CEO Bob Roe. TrustComm’s focus will now be on introducing OneWeb’s suite of enterprise services to customers.

TrustComm describes itself as a provider of managed satellite communications and professional services to commercial organisations and governments, offering broadband Internet access, VoIP and voice, video conferencing, data communications for business continuity, and emergency response services. It is based at the Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas.

The UK government and India’s Bharti rescued OneWeb last year, investing $1 billion between them, while earlier this year Japan’s Softbank and Hughes became equity investors, committing a further $400 million. Most recently, Eutelsat came in with a $550 million investment, at which point company CEO Neil Masterson revealed the company now has 80% of the financing it needs for its  Gen 1 fleet, 30% of which is now in orbit.

“The company intends to be fully-funded as we build our global satellite network by mid-2022,” the company’s Website declares. OneWeb aims to launch commercial services to the Arctic region before the end of this year, expanding globally in 2022.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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