OneWeb’s AT&T Satellite Deal Challenges Musk in His Backyard

(Bloomberg) — AT&T Inc. will use OneWeb’s low-earth orbit satellites to offer broadband to businesses in remote areas, in the British-backed venture’s first deal with a big U.S. phone company. 

OneWeb is racing against Elon Musk’s rival Starlink system to offer internet to consumers and businesses in regions of the world where terrestrial fixed and wireless connections aren’t profitable. Both are striking up partnerships with telecommunication companies to reach critical mass.  

“We’re expanding our network with one more option to help ensure that our business customers have the high-speed, low-latency connectivity they need,” AT&T’s president of network engineering and operations, Scott Mair, said in a statement outlining the deal. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

OneWeb was rescued from bankruptcy last year by Britain’s government and Indian billionaire Sunil Mittal, and aims to offer services in northern latitudes by the end of this year. The partnership with AT&T follows deals with Britain’s BT Group Plc and Canada’s Northwestel Inc. 

Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is approaching near global coverage for Starlink and says it’s signed deals with two “major country” telecom operators that it hasn’t named. Unlike OneWeb, it also plans to go direct to consumers. 

OneWeb and Starlink are among the most advanced players in a low-earth orbit space race that’s absorbing billions of dollars in investment. The technology threatens the position of traditional satellite companies, whose larger spacecraft orbit much further from earth, meaning their internet connections are slower. 

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