Alaska broadband deal alive as global telecom OneWeb resurrected

  • Pacific Dataport’s broadband satellite gateway facility near Talkeetna, seen here, will help the Anchorage-based telecom distribute capacity on London-based OneWeb’s global broadband satellite network. (Photo/Courtesy/OneWeb)
  • London-based OneWeb launches one of its low-earth orbit broadband satellites from its launch facility in Kazakhstan. The global telecom’s partnership with Anchorage-based Pacific Dataport Inc. to offer wholesale broadband capacity across Alaska and Hawaii is alive after OneWeb was purchased out of bankruptcy in July. (Photo/Courtesy/OneWeb)

A partnership to bring multiple layers of broadband coverage to Alaska next year is back on following the reemergence of a London-based telecom.

Representatives for OneWeb and Anchorage-based Pacific Dataport Inc. said the companies’ agreement to deploy and distribute broadband capacity across Alaska and Hawaii remains valid.

OneWeb was pulled from bankruptcy earlier this month when the U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy teamed with investment firm Bharti Global Ltd. to commit more than $1 billion to purchase OneWeb and restart its global satellite project.

Pacific Dataport, or PDI, is a subsidiary of Anchorage-based telecom provider Microcom.

In January, PDI and OneWeb announced a business partnership that would have the Alaska broadband company distribute capacity across Alaska and Hawaii on OneWeb’s worldwide network of low-earth orbit satellites, which was in-the-works when the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic began to be felt worldwide.

OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 27 after several of its large investors backed away, citing financial uncertainty created by the pandemic, which immediately halted work on its worldwide broadband project.

OneWeb previously touted large international partners and investors such as fellow telecoms Hughes and Qualcomm as well as Coca Cola and Dutch aerospace giant Airbus.

Hughes announced July 27 it has agreed in principle to invest $50 million in OneWeb alongside Bharti and the British government presuming creditors and regulators ultimately approve the purchase.

PDI’s partnership targets large customers with the company selling wholesale broadband capacity on OneWeb’s network, which is based on a massive fleet of low-earth orbit, or LEO, satellites.

Their plan originally was to begin offering capacity by the end of the year. PDI Government Affairs Director Shawn Williams said the work has been delayed by about four months, but stressed the company’s partnership with OneWeb “stands exactly where it was before the filing. If anything, it’s stronger.”

He emphasized that PDI continued work on its own Alaska-focused Aurora System broadband project while OneWeb’s future was uncertain.

PDI’s project is specifically targeting Alaska with geosynchronous equatorial orbit, or GEO, satellites that are launched into an orbit thousands of miles above Earth and mirror the planet’s rotation. The Aurora System will be run by Pacific Dataport. Microcom will offer small business and residential retail broadband from the system and Pacific Dataport will handle business-to-business and wholesale broadband contracts.

Work on OneWeb’s LEO network was delayed by several months, according to an Alaska representative for the company, but PDI and OneWeb expect to start offering service in the state next year through both the LEO and Aurora projects.

The Aurora project will offer 7.5 gigabits per second of broadband capacity through its first satellite early next year and the launch of a second satellite planned for 2022 should provide an additional 70 gigabits of bandwidth.

“Everything is back on track,” Williams said.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

07/29/2020 - 9:18am