OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellite communications company, has completed the sale of its assets to the UK government and Bharti Global as it has emerged from the US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It would now start recommencing satellite launches, the company announced on Friday.
As part of the restructuring process, OneWeb will have a new management with Sunil Bharti Mittal as the Executive Chairman and Neil Masterson as the Chief Executive Officer. Prior to joining OneWeb, Masterson worked as Co-Chief Operating Officer at Thomson Reuters, a global provider of news, information, and software.
After the completion of the deal in the UK, Mittal told Business Standard in a telephonic conversation that this would be like having a telecom network in space, oceans, mountains and forest. Calling it a ‘’game changer’’, he said the people who are not covered by broadband so far would benefit hugely from the geo-satellite connectivity that OneWeb would offer.
From a small hospital in Kalahandi to godowns in remote corners of the country will be able to experience 4G and 5G type of communication networks with this, Mittal said. He added that the impact would be felt in the Himalayas as well as in the deepest oceans.
Speaking on the high-capacity and high-speed streaming and video applications on offer, Mittal said it was even more relevant during the current pandemic. ‘’The world would have collapsed without connectivity.’’
Separately in a statement, Mittal 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.’’ He added that the joint venture facility would be used to drive down the cost of service and opening new use cases for low latency broadband provision.
Sunil Mittal’s son Shravin had led the project in the UK and it took about eight months to put the deal together.
In this venture, a consortium of the UK government and Bharti Global has invested $1 billion of new equity to offer broadband connectivity services, via a constellation of 650 LEO satellites. ‘’Together with the UK government as partner, we recognised that OneWeb has valuable global spectrum with priority rights, and we benefit from $3.3 billion invested to-date and from the satellites already in orbit, securing our usage rights,” Mittal said.
UK-headquartered OneWeb is expected to resume launches in December. About eight to 10 launches are planned through next year with commercial services likely by the end of 2021. Full commercial and mobility services would be rolled out in 2022-23.
The company plans to build its initial constellation of 650 satellites, coupled with gateways around the world and a range of user terminals for different market applications.
(With inputs from Nivedita Mookerji)