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Bharti Enterprises Acquires Stake In UK Based Satellite Internet Startup, OneWeb

Bharti Enterprises Acquires Stake In UK Based Satellite Internet Startup, OneWeb

UK-based OneWeb, which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, has raised $500Mn of funding from a group of leading international companies.

OneWeb’s investors include Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, (Hughes), a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp., Intelsat, Qualcomm Incorporated, The Coca-Cola Company, Totalplay, a Grupo Salinas Company, owned by Ricardo B. Salinas, and Virgin Group.

OneWeb will use the funding to further develop key technologies to enable affordable broadband for rural and underdeveloped locations.

The OneWeb User Terminals are optionally solar powered, and with their embedded LTE, 3G, 2G and Wifi access capabilities will extend the mobile operator’s reach. The network will also provide unprecedented speeds and low latency access to ships, planes, trains and oil platforms while providing seamless interoperability with Intelsat’s fleet of Ku band satellites.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises and Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus Group, will be joining Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, Dr. Paul Jacobs, Executive Chairman of Qualcomm Incorporated, and Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb on the Board of Directors.  Each of the other founding shareholders, who will also be Board observers, will continue to advise the company and support the programme directly through provision of technical and manufacturing expertise, launch capabilities, and enabling access to potential customers.

Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb, “Together with our committed and visionary founding shareholders we have the key elements in place: regulatory, technology, launches, satellites, as well as commercial operators in over 50 countries and territories. We are committed to solving one of the world’s biggest problems – enabling affordable broadband Internet access for everyone. We are excited about the next phase, which will involve working with countries, telecom operators and aid organizations to help them realize their goals of open and ubiquitous access.”

UK-based OneWeb was founded by Greg Wyler in 2012.OneWeb’s mission is to enable affordable Internet access for everyone and is building a communications network with a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide connectivity to billions of people around the world. With more than 10 terabits per second of new capacity, it will transparently extend the networks of mobile operators and ISP’s to serve new coverage areas, bringing voice and data access to consumers, businesses, schools, healthcare institutions and other end users.

Following the announcement on June 15 of its joint venture with Airbus Defence and Space (pending regulatory approvals) to design and manufacture its first 900 microsatellites, OneWeb today also announces the largest commercial rocket acquisition ever of more than 65 rockets including 21 Soyuz launch orders from Arianespace and 39 launches from Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne.

Having witnessed the deep positive impact of enabling communications across our global operations, Bharti is delighted to be a part of this initiative that will accelerate the journey towards building a digitally inclusive world,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Enterprises. Bharti Airtel, a group company of Bharti Enterprises with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, will be able to leverage the investment by becoming a distributor of these services across its operations.

Recently this year, Google and Fidelity has invested $1Bn in California-based SpaceX, another Internet-via-satellite project  headed by Elon Musk, CEO Tesla Motors (TSLA.O).

Using satellites to deliver broadband Internet to the users in distant areas has always been a highly speculative segment, littered with failed investments and bankrupted ventures.

OneWeb’s project is based on radio frequencies, a principle applied by an old satellite project, Teledesic, which failed after raising $1Bn from big investors like Microsoft (MSFT.O) founder Bill Gates and Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal. In the same space, two other 1990s big satellite ventures, Iridium and Globalstar also ended in bankruptcy.

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