OneWeb gets new CEO amid executive shuffle

OneWeb LEO constellation
OneWeb plans to deploy a global network of 720 low Earth orbit satellites using the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) frequency bands to provide global Internet connectivity. (OneWeb)

OneWeb CEO Eric Béranger is being replaced by Adrien Steckel, who served as CEO of global digital money platform Uphold. Uphold announced today that Steckel has been tapped by OneWeb to serve as CEO of the $6 billion satellite broadband firm.

OneWeb later came out with its own announcement, saying Béranger is staying on as president and COO of OneWeb. Béranger, whose experience runs deep in the space industry, will help OneWeb deliver high-quality services with its unique system of satellites and ground infrastructure. 

Steckel, who has been on the board and an investor in OneWeb since its inception, is being brought in to help the company focus on its next phase of growth. A veteran of the telecom space, he was the CEO of Iusacell, a successful mobile carrier in Mexico that he sold to AT&T in 2015, and he also led the buildout and operations of the fiber backbones in Colombia and Peru with their respective governments. 

“I am a firm believer in the company’s mission," Steckel said in the press release. "There is nothing more exciting than working on something so meaningful. I look forward to working in partnership with Eric and the whole team to make OneWeb a success.”

Steckel will remain on the board of Uphold, while JP Thieriot, Uphold’s co-founder and vice chairperson, will take on the role of CEO at the firm, according to a press release.

“There are remarkable similarities between Uphold’s mission of opening up access to next-generation financial services to everyone with a networked device, and OneWeb’s mission of bringing broadband connectivity to everyone, in every corner of the planet,” Thieriot said in a statement.

OneWeb plans to deploy a global network of 720 low Earth orbit satellites using the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) frequency bands to provide global internet connectivity. Plans call for launching its first batch of broadband satellites into orbit during the fourth quarter of 2018.

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Steckel will become the third CEO for OneWeb in six years. Béranger, meanwhile, served as CEO of OneWeb for two years. Béranger formerly served as head of operations and quality of space systems at Airbus Defence and Space, where he managed the technical and operational relationship between Airbus and OneWeb. Airbus Defence and Space formed a satellite manufacturing joint venture with OneWeb called OneWeb satellites in 2016. The JV is tasked with manufacturing some 900 satellites for OneWeb’s planned low Earth orbit broadband constellation, as well as manufacturing satellites for third-party operators.

While at Airbus, Béranger helped form and served on the JV’s board. He joined OneWeb as CEO in 2016, replacing Matt O’Connell, who had replaced OneWeb founder Greg Wyler as CEO in 2015. Wyler, who serves as chairman of OneWeb’s board, was named FierceWireless’ “Most Powerful Person In Telecom” for 2017.

“As OneWeb begins launching its system, Adrian’s international business, operations, and telecommunications experience will help him lead OneWeb into its next phase, becoming a global telecom operator and ultimately achieving its mission of helping to bridge the digital divide," Wyler said in a statement.

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The news is the latest in a string of C-suite announcements made by OneWeb this year. In March, OneWeb announced the appointments of David Tolley as chief financial officer, Stephen Chernow as general counsel, and Vivek Jhamb as chief commercial officer. Tolley formerly worked at satellite operator Intelsat, and Jhamb served as manager for data and connectivity carrier services for Vodafone before joining OneWeb.

Story updated Sept. 7 to reflect Eric Béranger's new role as president and COO of OneWeb and additional commentary from OneWeb.