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Officials at the UK Space Agency told the Government that investing in OneWeb to build a rival to the Galileo system presents major difficulties because its low-earth-orbit satellites may be unable to provide accurate location signals.
Low-earth satellites similar to OneWeb’s mean navigation signals “should be considered not viable”, according to a memo seen by The Telegraph. They could be inaccurate, would require hundreds of satellites and could be more susceptible to interference from jamming technology and anti-satellite weapons, experts warned.
Could buying OneWeb reduce the UK’s reliance on Huawei?
Using OneWeb to beam 5G signals from the atmosphere could also allow phone operators to lessen their reliance on Huawei telecoms equipment.
Many of the UK’s leading phone networks use equipment from the Chinese business in their 4G and 5G networks, but a number of Conservative MPs have been encouraging the Government to place stricter caps on Huawei kit because of concerns about its links with the Chinese government. Huawei executives have consistently denied the allegations.
Owning OneWeb could mean that rural communities don’t need thousands of phone masts across the countryside fitted with Huawei kit, an attractive prospect for operators which could face political pressure to rip out Huawei kit.
Could buying OneWeb bring jobs back to the UK?
OneWeb’s corporate headquarters is in the UK, but its manufacturing has been taking place in a factory in Florida which is capable of producing two satellites per day.
A UK purchase of OneWeb could encourage the business to move some of its manufacturing capacity to the UK.
The UK is keen to position itself as a leading country for private space flight and satellite launches.
Plans for a new “space hub” in Scotland were approved last month, paving the way for British space companies to begin planning for their own launches.
A UK Government stake in OneWeb may put pressure on its directors to begin bringing manufacturing jobs back to the UK.