Bharti Enterprises-led consortium, which is backed by the UK government, has won the bid OneWeb, the bankrupt global satellite operator which has SoftBank Group Corp as one of the major investors. Bharti Enterprises had in 2015 participated in a funding round for OneWeb alongside other investors including Qualcomm, Virgin Group and Airbus Group NV.
OneWeb formed an alliance in 2018 with partners including Delta Air Lines Inc., Bharti Airtel and Sprint Corp. to allow wireless carriers to extend their service into aeroplane cabins.
“I am delighted that Bharti will be leading the effort to deliver the promise of universal broadband connectivity through OneWeb, with the active support and participation of the British Government,” Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman Bharti Enterprises said in a statement.
Deal to allow construction of a global satellite constellation
The deal will enable OneWeb to complete the construction of a global satellite constellation that will provide enhanced broadband and other services to mobile and fixed terminals in countries around the world. Herbert Smith Freehills LLP served as the legal counsel and Standard Chartered Bank acted as the financial adviser to Bharti Global Ltd.
In addition to the strategic opportunities across a wide range of other applications and working with a broad range of international partners, this business has substantial commercial use cases across the telecoms, enterprise, aviation and maritime sectors, Mittal said.
“With strong operational execution, we will be able to generate an attractive return for investors, while ensuring that Britain plays a leading role in space and next-generation communications,” he added.
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.
Bharti will work with partners around the world to deliver this technology to those who need it the most. “I commend the Bharti Global team - led by Shravin Bharti Mittal - and our partners in the Government for bringing together this strong consortium, and putting together the winning bid, within such a short timeframe,” he added,
The deal will provide an opportunity for India and the UK to deepen their cooperation on space. “Further, India’s leading-edge capabilities in the space program through The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) can be leveraged to accelerate OneWeb’s ambitions,” Mittal added.
The UK government said that it would provide $500 million to deliver first UK sovereign space capability, alongside $500 million from Bharti Global.