Bharti said to be key player in UK's OneWeb bid

The Indian operator is reportedly one of several investors in a UK government-backed consortium that aims to secure control over the low-Earth orbit satellite system.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

June 30, 2020

2 Min Read
Bharti said to be key player in UK's OneWeb bid

Indian operator Bharti Enterprises is said to have emerged as one of several private investors in a UK government-backed consortium that is reportedly eyeing up a "golden share" in satellite operator OneWeb.

According to the Financial Times, Bharti Enterprises is a key investor in the consortium. Reports have said that the UK government intends to invest £500 million (US$613 million) in the satellite operator, with the aim of building a rival satellite navigation system to the European Union's Galileo project once the Brexit process has been completed.

Such a plan has already been greeted by experts with a mixture of disbelief and skepticism. Dr Bleddyn Bowen, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester, told The Guardian that OneWeb's mega-constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO) is a completely different type of satellite network from that typically used to run navigation systems.

OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, despite previously raising $3.4 billion from investors including SoftBank, Virgin Group, Qualcomm and Bharti Enterprises.

The FT cited sources as saying that other bidders are from China and Canada, and the final decision is expected on Thursday.

OneWeb was founded by Greg Wyler in 2012 with the original proposal of building a mega-constellation of more than 600 satellites in low-Earth orbit to deliver affordable wireless Internet services to anywhere in the world.

At the time of its Chapter 11 filing, the operator said it had launched 74 satellites to date. Since its collapse, it is said to have been proposing new services to attract investors, including positioning, navigation and timing services for critical national infrastructure and autonomous vehicles.

Elon Musk's SpaceX is also working on getting its own Starlink-branded constellation of 12,000 LEO satellites into space via its Starship space-transportation business. In addition, Amazon's Jeff Bezos is behind Kuiper Systems, which has laid out plans to launch 3,236 LEO satellites to offer broadband Internet connections across much of the globe.

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— Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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