A South Korean tech giant has invested £217 million into OneWeb as it launches a fleet of satellites to improve global internet connectivity.

OneWeb is owned by Eutelsat, which pumped £400m into the company in April, as well as the UK government and Bharti Global after each committed $500m to help it emerge from bankruptcy last year.

SoftBank and Hughes Network Systems LLC are also significant backers after committing funding earlier this year

The UK-based low earth orbit satellite communications company has now been backed by Hanwha, a South Korean Fortune 500, global technology and manufacturing company. 

The equity investment will bring further defence capabilities and the latest antenna technologies to OneWeb, alongside relationships to new government customers and expanded geographical reach.

The investment is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022, subject to regulatory approvals. It brings OneWeb’s total equity investment since November 2020 to $2.7 billion with no debt issuance. 

OneWeb’s mission is to offer fast internet access to the entire world, including a ‘pathway to 5G’.

Its 648 LEO satellite fleet will deliver high-speed, low-latency global connectivity, placing it as a rival to Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the US. To date, the company has launched 254 satellites into orbit, with another launch planned this August from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Thanks to the success of recent launches, OneWeb says its network will be ready to offer connectivity services by the end of 2021.

“We are pleased to join hands with OneWeb, which has strength in the LEO communication area, the core of space business,” said Hanwha Systems’s CEO and president Youn Chul KIM.

“To OneWeb ‘s vision of connecting all the people across the globe, Hanwha System’s satellite and antenna technology will bring more advantages.”

On completion, OneWeb will appoint a board director to represent Hanwha’s share in the company.

CEO Neil Masterson added: “We are all delighted that they have chosen to join us on this journey of innovation, shaping a global service to connect the most remote locations and to provide a critical digital pathway from space to our interconnected world.”

After OneWeb completes the full deployment of the constellation, the company anticipates annual revenues of approximately $1 billion in year three or soon thereafter. 

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today’s $300m investment in OneWeb by Hanwha is the latest in a series of votes of confidence in the company from the market. It’s clear that leading global investors see a promising future for this ground-breaking company and a robust commercial case for investment.

“The government’s equity stake in OneWeb not only allows the UK to capitalise on our first-mover advantage to deploy low Earth orbit technology but will put our country at the forefront of the small satellite market, which is set to rapidly expand over the years ahead.”