Bharti’s LEO-based broadband services scheduled for testing next year

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on August 20, 2020

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Enterprises   -  REUTERS

Testing will be carried out in Northern Europe, says Sunil Bharti Mittal

The UK-based satellite operator OneWeb, recently acquired by Indian telecom conglomerate Bharti Enterprise, would start testing the services from its constellation of 648 low earth orbit (LEO) satellites by latter part of 2021.

This testing would be carried out mainly in the upper parts of Northern Europe, said Bharti Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said on Thursday.

Last month Bharti jointly with the UK government bought OneWeb, which filed for bankruptcy after its major investor SoftBank Group, declined to give fresh funding of $1 billion.

Participating in a webinar organised by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on allowing more private sector participation in India’s space activities, Mittal sought the help and guidance of Indian space agency in getting landing rights for putting up ‘two or three ground stations in north, south and western parts of India’ for OneWeb services.

This will help OneWeb start delivering its services in early part of 2022 when the entire constellation is up, he said.

“We would have started to test by latter part of next year itself (at) 42 degrees north where we start to cover the polar region and upper northern Europe. Then we would have started to test a lot of ground and user terminals,” Mittal said seeking ISRO’s help and support to develop user terminals which cater to the needs of Indian users.

“India requires affordable rural broadband connectivity. We also very clearly know that reaching fibre or even terrestrial radio in some parts of deep Nicobar, deserts in Rajasthan or the deep forests in Madhya Pradesh is going to be almost impossibility. But, why should these people be deprived of broadband connectivity?” he asked.

Mittal said the firm has already earmarked a lot of areas in India where the benefits of the LEO constellation broadband connectivity will be made available.

One of the highlights of the LEO constellation is going to be low latency.

“We are currently testing some BMW cars and they are showing great promise. And delivery at less than 32 milliseconds which becomes a game changer as opposed to GEO (geosynchronous) satellites which have a latency of 560 milliseconds,” Mittal said.

Latency is the time taken by a bit of information to traverse a network from its originating point to the final destination. In high-speed internet it is often latency rather than the bandwidth that determines user experience.

“With less than 50 milliseconds, you start to get real-time interactive services, gaming and other downstream services,” Mittal said.

He said Bharti plans to seek a strong rapport and cooperation agreement with ISRO to see the combination of LEO-GEO put to use in Indian territory, combing the strengths and capacity requirements of these two constellations.

Opening his remarks in the webinar, Mittal said the government needs to have a “light-touch” policy towards Indian private sector, while being stringent in policy matters relating to security and foreign policy.

Published on August 20, 2020

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