Softbank’s big investment in OneWeb, taking a 40-percent stake for $1.2 billion, almost assures that the proposed low earth orbit satellite constellation will launch. There are some other direct and potential consequences, especially a change in the business models of rural internet service providers.
Much hinges on whether OneWeb makes a big move into wholesale partnerships, and whether mobile and other internet service providers decide to become wholesale partners.
In many rural areas, where there is no fixed or mobile network, a wholesale partnership might help both OneWeb and a local partner of some sort.
It remains unclear whether mobile operators or others will choose to partner with OneWeb, but the OneWeb terminals support LTE, 3G, 2G and Wifi, so the opportunity is there.
It is conceivable that OneWeb becomes a wholesale partner for mobile operators or other ISPs, much as it is possible the Project Loon balloon fleet could become a wholesale partner for mobile companies across the United States, as Alphabet has been attempting in Asia, for example.
If some ISPs choose not to partner with OneWeb, or other new wholesale platforms, there are upsides and downsides. The upside is that a facilities-based approach allows more control of packaging and costs on the part of the facilities owner. The downside is that the risk of stranded assets is greater (network assets that do not support actual customers and revenue are “stranded”).
Much now hinges on what OneWeb chooses to do about wholesale partnerships, and how it prices such wholesale access.