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Bharti Group, British govt take over OneWeb; Sunil Mittal appointed Executive Chairman

OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellite communications firm, also announced new management with telecom czar Sunil Mittal at the helm as Executive Chairman

twitter-logoPTI | November 20, 2020 | Updated 20:56 IST
Bharti Group, British govt take over OneWeb; Sunil Mittal appointed Executive Chairman
Chairman of Bharti Enterprises Sunil Mittal

Billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal-run Bharti Group along with the British government on Friday took over as the new owners of broadband satellite communications company OneWeb, which has emerged from bankruptcy and is all set to recommence satellite launches.

OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellite communications firm, also announced new management with telecom czar Sunil Mittal at the helm as Executive Chairman.

The UK government and Bharti Global are the new owners of OneWeb. Bharti Global -- an overseas arm of Bharti -- operates out of London and has investments in telecom, technology, hospitality, transportation and energy.

"This is a telecom network in space," Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises told PTI while terming the constellation of LEO satellites as a "game-changer".

Mittal said OneWeb is eyeing a full global coverage, including India market, by the middle of 2022.

OneWeb also announced the second half of December 2020 for its 'Return-to-Flight', with a 36-satellite payload scheduled for launch by Arianespace from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Launches will continue throughout 2021 and 2022 and OneWeb is on track to begin commercial connectivity services to the UK and the Arctic region in late 2021 and will expand to delivering global services in 2022, the company said in a statement.

Mittal said that by October next year, OneWeb will have 290-300 satellites available.

"By May or June of 2022, we will have a full global coverage, including India," Mittal said.

While commercial services in India is expected by June 2022, testing will start later next year.

OneWeb has announced its emergence from US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and achievement of all relevant regulatory approvals.

A consortium of the UK government, through the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Bharti Global, has invested USD 1 billion of new equity to offer broadband connectivity services via a constellation of 650 LEO satellites.

"The company will ensure that the UK is at the forefront of a new commercial space industrial age, evolving technology and innovation, and will work with the UK commercial and academic space communities, along with other international specialists, in its research and development activities," the company statement said.

OneWeb's vision is to enable Internet access for governments, businesses and individuals. It is implementing a constellation of LEO satellites with a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals to offer affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications service.

Mittal, in a statement, said: "These are exciting times and the world now has a LEO alternative to work with. We look forward to partnering with those equally determined to enter this new Space Age".

"There is unmet demand around the globe for broadband connectivity and we intend to continue OneWeb's social mission. We will use our joint venture facility to drive down the cost of service, opening new use cases for low latency broadband provision."

Neil Masterson has been named CEO of OneWeb. Additional two non-executive board members representing the UK government, which is currently going through its public recruitment process, will be announced.

"Neil Masterson succeeds Adrian Steckel, who continues as an Adviser to the Board," the statement said.

UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma said: "This strategic investment demonstrates Government's commitment to the UK's space sector in the long-term and our ambition to put Britain at the cutting edge of the latest advances in space technology".

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