OneWeb to spur India’s rural connectivity: Mittal2 min read . Updated: 20 Nov 2020, 11:10 PM IST
Satellite network will play a critical role for 5G services, says Bharti Airtel chairman
OneWeb, a broadband satellite communications company that was acquired by a consortium of investors comprising the UK government and Bharti Global, will boost rural broadband connectivity in India and other developing countries, including those in Africa, said Sunil Mittal, chairman, Bharti Enterprises.
“For rural broadband, I would say Africa, India and less developed countries will benefit from OneWeb’s satellite network. They will have the biggest benefit. For critical applications such as defence, the ministry of defence in the UK is already engaging with us because they need connectivity in very remote areas," Mittal told Mint on Friday.
Mittal’s comments come amid the Centre’s push to enhance broadband connectivity in both urban and rural areas as remote working due to covid-led restrictions has increased dependency on wireless networks, hurting the quality of services.
Bharti Global, the overseas arm of Bharti Enterprises, and the UK government, through the UK secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, invested $1 billion in new equity in OneWeb, which has 650 low-Earth orbit satellites.
The satellite company, headquartered in the UK, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of March after failing to secure $2 billion financing from lead shareholder SoftBank Group. The portfolio companies of Bharti Global and its subsidiaries include Bharti Airtel Ltd, OneWeb, Gleneagles and Hoxton Hotels, Emtel and Hike.
For 5G services, satellite network will play an important role as it will reach areas where fibre and radio airwaves cannot penetrate, Mittal said. The cost of using satellite network is the highest among the three mediums and, thus fibre and spectrum will be the preferred modes of transmission of data wherever they will be available, he added.
“Wherever they (fibre and radio airwaves) are reaching, we will have little role as people will use those networks rather than using us… We will be available in every square inch of the world. For 5G and indoors places, where none is available, we will provide the services," Mittal said.
Mittal said OneWeb has global spectrum with priority rights, and the company benefits from $3.3 billion invested so far and the satellites already in orbit.
As part of OneWeb’s bankruptcy resolution process, Mittal has been appointed as the executive chairman and Neil Masterson will be the chief executive officer.
“Our December launch puts the UK firmly in the global space business, alongside acknowledged Indian telecoms experts, Bharti Global. OneWeb will be a model for responsible cooperation in space," said Masterson.
OneWeb will launch a 36-satellite payload in the second half of December. The launch will be facilitated by Arianespace from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. “All the satellites have been shipped from Florida to Vostochny and are now undergoing preparation for launch," Bharti Global said in a statement.
Hughes Network Systems, LLC, a broadband satellite networks and services company, will also join the consortium and has agreed in principle to invest $50 million in OneWeb. Hughes will continue as a technology and distribution partner of OneWeb.