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.
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.
For more on this topic, see:
- OneWeb heads into bankruptcy and SpaceX might be next
- OneWeb's ambitions blast off with $1.25B from the likes of Qualcomm, SoftBank
- Musk's Starlink is 'not some huge threat to telcos'
- After years in the cold, satellite is hot again
- OneWeb's LEO strategy shows more progress, but questions remain
- Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to compete for 5G backhaul business
— Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading