What’s up with… OneWeb, Giganet and Cuckoo, RCS

  • OneWeb reports a financial hit for snubbing Russia
  • Giganet pushes the UK broadband consolidation wagon
  • RCS set to be a hit in the business messaging world  

In today’s industry news roundup: OneWeb’s finances suffer from its decision to abandon its Russian rocket launch plans; Giganet sets a UK broadband M&A precedent; new report suggests RCS is going to become very popular in the business messaging world: and much more!

Satellite operator OneWeb never seems to be far from controversy. In its annual report, OneWeb revealed that its decision to cancel its satellite launch plans in Kazakhstan in March due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the consequent major dispute with the Russian space agency RosCosMos, resulted in a $229m writedown that pushed its full fiscal year operating loss to $425.9m. That writedown looks to be mainly associated with the loss of 36 satellites that have been reportedly held hostage indefinitely by Russia because of the dispute, a move that also resulted in increased insurance costs for the satellite firm. OneWeb is currently in the process of being acquired by one of its current investors, Eutelsat, which (one hopes) will have known all about the implications of the decision to abandon the launch plans in Kazakhstan and (again, one hopes) would have supported the move. Overall, OneWeb booked a $389.8m net loss for the year ending 31 March 2022, while its revenue was just $9.6m, though it should be noted that its meaningful  revenue-generating years are ahead of it.

Last week TelecomTV reported that the UK broadband market is as healthy as it has ever been in terms of competition, network investment and service uptake, but that the market is ripe for consolidation now there are more than 120 ISPs looking to sell services and network operators are building over and around each other in certain areas. Well, today comes news of an example of said consolidation, with Giganet snapping up Cuckoo for an undisclosed sum. It isn’t a ground-breaking deal – it seems that Giganet will be using the Cuckoo name as its primary consumer brand as it seeks to attract customers – but it’s an example of what we can expect to see plenty of during the next 12 to 18 months, with small, competitive UK broadband players either merging or buying each other to bulk up and gain the scale that will be needed for the future. Watch out for more of the same…. 

The value of the mobile business messaging market is set to ramp up from $48bn this year to $78bn in 2027. The 63% growth over the next five years is expected to be fuelled by the adoption by enterprise users of services based on the much-maligned rich communication services (RCS) messaging protocol, according to a report from Juniper Research. According to the report’s authors, business users are flocking to RCS because of its end-to-end encryption and verified sender identity capabilities that are useful in combating messaging fraud. According to the Juniper Research team's forecast, “the global number of RCS business messages received will increase from 161 billion in 2022 to 639 billion by 2027, as enterprises in industries handling sensitive data, such as banking and healthcare, migrate traffic away from SMS to more secure channels,” though much rests on whether Apple introduces support for RCS over its device operating system, iOS, over the next three years. Read more.

The global satellite internet of things (IoT) subscriber base will hit 21.2 million units in 2026, up from the 3.9 million in 2021, according to a new report from Sweden-based Berg Insight, which specialises in analysis of all things IoT. The study, unsurprisingly entitled “The Satellite IoT Communications Market”, covers 44 satellite operators and forecasts that, by 2026, the sector will be growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40.3%. The rationale behind the calculations is that, as only 10% of the Earth’s surface has access to terrestrial communications connectivity, the opportunity for satellite IoT communication is massive and still largely untapped. The report notes that satellite connectivity is a very useful complement to terrestrial cellular and non-cellular networks in remote locations, and is particularly useful for apps in sectors such as agriculture, asset tracking, maritime transportation, oil and gas industry exploration, utilities and construction. Incumbent satellite operators, as well as  more than 20 startups, are now addressing the satellite IoT connectivity market. The biggest satellite-based IoT network operators are Iridium Communications, Orbcomm, Inmarsat and Globalstar. Matt Desch will have been the CEO of Iridium for 16 years this month and has done a great job both in rescuing the once bankrupt company and then realising its true potential after it chewed up and spat out five previous CEOs in five years. Last year, Iridium grew its subscriber base by 21% and is now the leading company in the market, with 1.3 million subscribers. Inmarsat is not far behind with 1.2 million subscribers. Meanwhile, Orbcomm has transitioned from being a dedicated satellite operator into an “end-to-end solution provider”, delivering services on its own satellite network as well as being a reseller partner of Inmarsat and others. At the end of last year, Orbcomm had 1.1 million satellite IoT subscribers, some on its own networks and others on Inmarsat’s constellation. Globalstar has reached 420,000 subscribers. There is a plethora of new players in the space space, including Astrocast, AST SpaceMobile, CASC/CASIC, E-Space, Fleet Space Technologies, Hubble Network, Kepler Communications, Kineis, Ligado Networks, Lynk, Myriota, Omnispace, Skylo, Swarm Technologies (SpaceX) and Totum. They are everywhere, I tell you, and surely consolidation will happen at some point. Most of the new entrants favour business models and technologies based on low-earth orbit (LEO) nano satellites. Several of the newbies are also seeking to exploit terrestrial wireless IoT connectivity technologies. Johan Fagerberg, CEO and co-founder of Berg Insight, and the principal analyst behind the report, commented, “The terrestrial technologies will grow in importance in the next five years and collaborations between satellite operators and mobile operators exploring new hybrid satellite-terrestrial connectivity opportunities, such as the recent T-Mobile/SpaceX agreement, will become common.”

Maryland became an English colony on Chesapeake Bay in 1632. In 1778, it joined forces with the other 12 of the 13 colonies in rebellion against the British crown and became a state that same year. The state flower of Maryland is the black-eyed Susan, the state bird is the Baltimore oriole, and the state crustacean is the Atlantic blue crab. It is all the more satisfying and appropriate then, to report that scientists at the University of Maryland (one of the world’s top 100) have created a rechargeable biodegradable battery made from crab shells! Last week, the respected peer-reviewed scientific journal Matter published details of a research paper called ‘A sustainable chitosan-zinc electrolyte for high-rate zinc metal batteries’, which reveals that the material at the heart of the breakthrough is derived from the very tough exoskeletons of crustaceans. Rechargeable batteries made from the shells of crab and zinc could well be ideal for the storage of green energy, such as wind and solar. The lead author of the paper, Dr Liangbing Hu, director of the Centre for Materials Innovation at the university, says such batteries, which are non-flammable and comprise 66% chitin in the form of the polysaccharide chitosan, can be recharged at least 1,000 times (which is comparable to that of a lithium battery) before slowly and safely degrading by microbial action over a period as short as six months. Meanwhile, any remaining zinc would be recycled. By contrast, lithium takes hundreds of thousands of years to decay. Chitin is remarkably inexpensive, being predominantly a throwaway by-product of the food industry. It is estimated that the amount of chitosan powder needed for a zinc-based battery the size of a small coin would cost just $0.00017. Zinc itself is an abundant, naturally occurring resource and is easily mined as an ore. The battery developed at the University of Maryland has an energy efficiency of 99.7% after being charged and discharged 1,000 times. It would have a myriad of commercial uses and could also have a profound effect on the mileage range and charging time of electric vehicles, as well as making smartphone batteries cheaper and longer lasting. And to round things off for what is officially the last day of summer in the US, this: A man walks into a Baltimore seafood store and pulls a big blue crab out of a bag. The crab blinks, clicks his claws and looks around as the man says, “Do you do crab cakes?” “We certainly do, sir”, comes the response. “Excellent, would you make him a triple-layer chocolate gateau, it’s his 25th birthday.” 

The UK government review of the sale of MVNO and eSIM evangelist Truphone has been extended by a further 45 days, according to a report from Sky News. The sale of Truphone to German businessman Hakan Koç for a nominal £1 was announced in June, but the deal was placed under review in July by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which used the relatively new National Security and Investment Act to examine the implications of the deal to BT, with which Truphone has an MVNO agreement. The Truphone team, as well as Koç, will be hoping for a swift resolution by the UK authorities as the eSIM services specialist is believed to be running short of cash for day-to-day operations. 

After reporting a staggering ¥3.1tn ($23bn) net loss for the second quarter of 2022, SoftBank is apparently looking to cut no less than 20% of its workforce at its troubled Vision Fund. According to Bloomberg, the company aims to dismiss at least 100 positions based in the UK, the US and China, potentially this month. The investment fund had employed about 500 employees in total, and there are calls from some company executives for the job cuts to be as high as 50% of the unit’s headcount. The report doesn’t come as a surprise as SoftBank founder, chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son unveiled plans in August for wide cost-cutting measures to reduce the division’s financial burden. As part of the turbulence at the division, at the end of August, Rajeev Misra stepped down from the role of corporate officer and executive vice president at SoftBank Group. He will, however, continue to look after SoftBank Vision Fund 1, the first fund of the group, which manages only existing investments.

NTT has claimed a breakthrough by achieving “the world’s largest capacity” through a digital coherent signal processing circuit and an optical device. The Japanese company said that it reached 1.2 Tbit/s per wavelength, which has led to longer transmission distances and lower power consumption in optical networks. According to its estimations, the capacity of an optical transmission system can be increased by 12 times compared to the widely used commercial optical transmission system (100 Gbit/s per wavelength). And, as a sustainability-boosting measure, it claims its invention can reduce power consumption per bit to less than 10% of the existing optical transceivers. See more here.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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