ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An international partnership to boost Alaska’s broadband connectivity ended after one of the companies collapsed because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
OneWeb Satellites filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection March 27, effectively ending a deal the company made with Anchorage-based telecom Microcom Inc., The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday.
The website of the global satellite broadband company based in London said the company was in advanced negotiations for investment that would have provided funding through its commercial launch.
“While the company was close to obtaining financing, the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of COVID-19,” OneWeb’s statement said.
Microcom announced an agreement in January to become a distributor on OneWeb’s broadband satellite network for Alaska and Hawaii through Microcom’s broadband subsidiary, Pacific Dataport Inc.
The partnership would have included Pacific Dataport selling wholesale broadband capacity on OneWeb’s network, which was based on a fleet of low-earth orbit satellites.
The network was scheduled to be up in Alaska by the end of the year, OneWeb representatives said.
Microcom founder Chuck Schumann said he was disappointed to hear about OneWeb’s bankruptcy, but noted the partnership was aimed at adding supplemental capacity to Pacific Dataport’s Aurora broadband project.
OneWeb needed to deploy about 200 satellites to make the project work with Pacific Dataport, Schumann said.
OneWeb had launched 74 satellites, with half of its ground stations complete or under construction.
There is no clarity yet about the impact of the economic difficulties on the Aurora broadband project, but Schumann said he expects it to be delayed at least several months.
The project announced in January 2019 is expected to utilize two geosynchronous equatorial orbit satellites to provide Alaska broadband coverage.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.