OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company, on Tuesday, announced the arrival of 36 satellites at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-SHAR) ahead of a planned launch from Sriharikota. OneWeb has teamed up with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of the national space agency Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to facilitate the launch.

With this launch, OneWeb will have over 70 per cent of its planned ‘Gen 1 LEO constellation’ in orbit as it progresses to deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity services around the world, the company said in a statement. “The launch will be the company’s 14th overall and the satellites will be put into orbit by the heaviest ISRO rocket, the GSLV-MkIII, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre,” the statement said.

An additional launch will take place this year, while three more launches are targeted for early next year to complete the constellation, OneWeb said. The company termed the upcoming launch as a pivotal moment "demonstrating tremendous momentum and progress towards delivering global coverage next year".

"OneWeb resumes its launch programme with leading partners in the satcom industry and the company's services are already available in Alaska, Canada, the UK, and the Arctic region," the statement said.

Distribution partnership

Bharti Enterprises, a major investor and shareholder in OneWeb, this year announced a distribution partnership with Hughes Communications India Pvt Ltd(HCIPL). OneWeb will connect towns, villages, and local and regional municipalities in the hard-to-reach areas "playing a critical role in bridging the digital divide across India".

"OneWeb's dedication to industry collaboration has allowed us to successfully navigate the ever-changing global environment and prepare for yet another milestone launch. We are proud of our ability to adapt and remain on track to deliver global connectivity in the hardest-to-reach places," Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, said.

Undertaking the launch of 36 OneWeb satellites onboard GSLV-MkIII from India is a "historic moment" for NSIL and ISRO, Radhakrishnan D, Chairman and Managing Director of NewSpace India Limited, said. "We are excited to see the arrival of the satellites and the ground support equipment in India in preparation for the launch," Radhakrishnan added.

The stage is all set for some high-voltage action as big names like Jio and OneWeb gear up for a slice of the lucrative satellite-based broadband services market in India. Nelco and Telesat too have completed successful LEO demonstrations in the country for enterprise, telecom, and government sectors.

The broadband from space segment is also being keenly watched by tech billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX Starlink and Amazon's Project Kuiper. Earlier this month, Reliance Jio Infocomm's satellite unit received a Letter of Intent (LoI) from the telecom department for satellite communication services. The LoI was issued to Jio Satellite Communications Ltd (JSCL).