Thursday, 25 June 2015

Bharti buys stake in satellite company OneWeb

Bharti Enterprises, said on Thursday it has acquired a strategic minority stake in OneWeb, which is supported by a global consortium of Qualcomm, Virgin Group, Airbus, Coca-Cola, Intelsat and Grupo Salinas and aims to provide affordable internet access to all.

As one of the founding members of OneWeb, Bharti will have representation on the board of the company. The firm has received funding of $500 million from its investors and aims to build a communications network with an initial constellation of 648 low earth orbit satellites that will provide connectivity around the world.

Bharti Airtel, a Bharti group company, will be a preferred distributor of the service in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Africa, with a strong focus on rural markets.

The OneWeb User Terminals contain embedded LTE, 3G, 2G and Wi-Fi access capabilities that extend the reach of mobile operators. With more than 10 terabits per second of new capacity, the system will extend the networks of mobile operators and internet service providers to serve new coverage areas, bringing voice and data access to consumers, businesses, schools, healthcare institutions and other end-users.

"This will provide internet access to the last man, especially in rural areas, and have an astounding effect on healthcare and education," Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman, Bharti Enterprises, told TOI. He said the service could be used as a hot spot in urban areas to provide connectivity as well as address the issue of call drops. He did not elaborate on Bharti's investment in the venture.

"In India, which is on the cusp of a massive data revolution, hundreds of millions of consumers in rural areas will benefit from this initiative and it will boost the government's Digital India programme and its vision of broadband access for all. Similarly, nations across Africa will be able to fulfill their digital inclusion agenda and aid economic growth through these affordable services," he said.

Mittal said trails would be started by 2017 and services are likely to begin by 2019.

OneWeb satellites will provide high-speed connectivity to a small user terminal, which transmits broadband access through Wi-Fi, LTE, 3G and 2G to the surrounding area.

This access will operate on mobile operators' billing platform. The terminals can be optionally solar-powered and used as community access points in schools, health centres or other locations.

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