Business Secretary Alok Sharma | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
UK investment in OneWeb satellite firm ‘geopolitical,’ Cabinet minister says
‘The UK has an ambition to be a world leader in the space sector,’ said Business Secretary Alok Sharma.
Updated 7/9/20, 4:24 PM CET
The U.K. government’s decision to invest in bankrupt satellite operator OneWeb is as much about competing globally with other space powers as it is boosting broadband coverage, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said Thursday.
Last week, Downing Street confirmed plans to participate in a $500 million deal to rescue OneWeb. During a parliamentary committee hearing Thursday, Sharma said the plan is not only to use the constellation to amp up broadband provision in the U.K., and to offer services for aviation and shipping, but also about geopolitical positioning.
“The U.K. has an ambition to be a world leader in the space sector,” Sharma told the committee. “I think this [investment] presents … strategic geopolitical opportunities for the U.K. as well.”
However, despite reports, Sharma said there are no plans to use OneWeb’s existing constellation of 74 low-orbit satellites as part of plans to build its own navigation system to rival the EU’s Galileo network.
Due to Brexit, the U.K. will lose access to the military-grade, encrypted part of the Galileo navigation system. However, converting OneWeb’s fleet would involve significant further investment.
“That wasn’t the rationale for this particular investment but of course we are exploring how OneWeb may be able to contribute to resilience in the future,”