Home/ Industry / Telecom/  OneWeb’s satellite broadband launch in India by Jul-Aug

New Delhi: India should refrain from auctioning airwaves needed for satellite broadband services, Sunil Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb Ltd, said, calling upon the Indian telecom regulator to create policies to facilitate spectrum allocation for satellite services.

“Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) must come with a policy that fully capitalizes on these projects for the benefit of India’s remotest parts and emergency services," Mittal told reporters after the launch of OneWeb’s final 36 satellites required for global coverage from Sriharikota by the Indian Space Research Organisation on Sunday.

Mittal added that India’s spacecom policy needs to be in place for OneWeb to launch services since it will pave the way for foreign investment into the Indian joint venture of OneWeb India.

OneWeb plans to launch broadband satellite services in India by July or August, depending on the spacecom policy and spectrum allocation that the country will adopt, Mittal said. “I’m hoping by July-August, we should have all the permissions in place," he said.

He added that OneWeb was readying landing stations in Madurai, Gujarat and Mumbai to ensure that once it receives government permission for the signals, it can begin offering services immediately. Landing stations form the third critical component for offering satellite broadband services.

Mittal said that tariffs for satellite broadband services offered by OneWeb would be similar to tariffs for mobile phone services in developed markets like the US and Europe but would be higher than mobile tariffs in India.

He added that tariffs might fall further with the advent of Gen2 or the second generation of satellite services, which will have larger capacities to service more markets. With 42 landing stations globally, a large majority of its capacities would be focused towards the US, Canada, Europe and Africa, with India taking up not more than 1.5% of the share. Mittal said that the Middle East was also emerging as a new market where OneWeb has signed a contract with Saudi Arabia.

Being the only satellite broadband operator with global coverage, Mittal said that OneWeb was ahead of even Starlink despite having a larger number of satellites and would be able to provide services in terrains where setting up mobile towers was difficult and in critical areas such as maritime security. He added that OneWeb tested in-flight connectivity speeds of 128 Mbps which was similar to the 4G speeds.

Mittal said that OneWeb would not sell its services directly in any market and has partnered with several companies globally. In India, he said that Airtel’s enterprise division would sell to its enterprise customers while the joint venture between Hughes and Airtel would sell to the rest of the market, including government and defence forces, with 80% of its broadband capacity already contracted.

Talking about the market, Mittal said that the satellite services would cater to over 3 billion people globally that do not have access to high-speed broadband in their parts of the world, a market that will be tapped into by OneWeb and its competitors, including Elon Musk’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper, even as the sector itself was undergoing consolidation.

With a total investment of more than $6 billion in setting up the OneWeb constellation of satellites, Mittal said he expected revenues of over $1 billion in the coming years on the back of very high Ebidta margins of over 70%. Currently, the company is making several million dollars a month in revenues.

Mittal added that he was in discussions with Indian authorities to create opportunities for manufacturing companies to make user terminals needed for satellite services in India.

Having launched OneWeb satellites twice and commercial satellites for other players, Mittal said that India had a massive opportunity to establish itself as a serious player in the commercial spaceflight industry at a time when the global competition was reducing due to several factors.

OneWeb will launch 16 satellites in May through SpaceX, which will add to its present count of 618 satellites, of which 588 will be needed for providing satellite broadband connectivity while the rest will be spares for redundancy.

Mittal added that OneWeb’s merger with French satellite operator Eutelsat was in the final stages and was expected to close soon. “That will also ensure the Gen2, which will require $3-4 billion to build in the next several years, is fully secured in terms of cash flows. As a company, we should have a lot of evidence to deal with continuous development investments into the satellite industry."

Gulveen Aulakh
Gulveen Aulakh is Senior Assistant Editor at Mint, serving dual roles covering the disinvestment landscape out of New Delhi, and the telecom & IT sectors as part of the corporate bureau. She had been tracking several government ministries for the last ten years in her previous stint at The Economic Times. An IIM Calcutta alumnus, Gulveen is fluent in French, a keen learner of new languages and avid foodie.
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Updated: 26 Mar 2023, 10:55 PM IST
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