Info-tech

Bharti Enterprises wins bid for 45% stake in UK’s OneWeb for $500 m

Thomas K Thomas Mumbai | Updated on July 03, 2020 Published on July 03, 2020

Sunil Bharati Mitta

Two decades after launching mobile telephony services in India, Sunil Mittal is now embarking on a new trajectory to connect the next billion users through a constellation of satellites.

Mittal-owned Bharti Enterprises has won a bid to pick up a 45 per cent stake in OneWeb, a UK-based company that has proposed a mega-constellation of satellites in low earth orbit to deliver affordable wireless internet services to anywhere in the world.

Bharti Enterprises will invest $500 million in OneWeb.

“OneWeb’s platform will help to reduce the digital divide by providing high speed, low latency broadband access to the poor and hard-to-reach rural areas. A low-earth orbit constellation is the only viable mechanism through which the ‘last billion’ can be connected. As one of the largest telecoms operators in India and Africa, I know what a powerful social and economic enabler this can be,” Mittal said in a statement. The negotiations were led by his son Shravin Bharti Mittal.

BusinessLine was the first to report that Bharti Enterprises’ bid had emerged at the top after auctions were held on Thursday. The bid was made in partnership with the UK government, which will also invest $500 million for a 45 per cent stake in OneWeb. Existing shareholders in the company — including Hughes, Qualcomm and Virgin Group — will keep the balance 10 per cent.

Testing ground

Bharti Airtel will act as the testing ground for all OneWeb products, services and applications. Its network across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the terrain necessitates the use of satellite-based connectivity, will provide a near-term anchor customer for global deployment of OneWeb's services. “These low orbit satellites could work like a cellular tower, but in the sky. Instead of putting up hundreds of towers to cover a region, Mittal will be able to cover the same area with just a couple of satellites,” said an industry expert.

In the first phase, the company will launch 650 satellites and subsequently launch 1,980 satellites. Low orbit satellites operate 1,200 km above the Earth’s surface.

OneWeb has proposed a mega-constellation of satellites in low earth orbit to deliver affordable wireless internet services to anywhere in the world

 

 

 

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Published on July 03, 2020
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