In July 2020, Bharti Enterprises Limited acquired 45% company shares of OneWeb, a UK based satellite firm. The procurement was made at an estimated cost of 500 million dollars. Bharti Enterprises Limited acquired the stakes for its subsidiary company Bharti Airtel, commonly known as Airtel.Embed from Getty Images
Airtel plays a significant role in mobile connectivity and telecom operations in India. Airtel also runs its telecom operations in other countries and is a major player in the sector in African countries.
OneWeb was established in the year 2012, under the name WorldVu. OneWeb had envisioned the goal to provide affordable wireless internet to all the parts of the world. To execute such an ambitious plan, OneWeb sketched the plan to place Mega constellations of satellites in Lower Earth Orbit or LEO.
Constellations is the name given to a group of satellites functioning in one network, and Mega constellations is the name given to a network involving thousands of satellites.
OneWeb had eventually planned to send 650 satellites in Phase 1 and 1980 satellites in Phase 2 to match higher demands. As of March 2020, OneWeb managed to launch 74 satellites out of 650 satellites in Phase 1. OneWeb had decided to place the satellites between 500 km and 2,000 km from the Earth compared to the traditional satellites placed at 36,000 km. The company decided to develop low-latency broadband because latency posed a huge problem for mission-critical data.
OneWeb was concentrating on placing satellites instead of erecting towers to solve the connectivity issues in hard to reach areas of the Earth.
Launching thousands of satellites would prove much cheaper as compared to erecting thousands of towers. Towers also have limitations when it comes to hostile places such as deserts, forests, and oceans.
On 27 March 2020, OneWeb filed for bankruptcy after facing difficulties in raising funds for the development and completion of the remaining networks.
Bharti Enterprises Limited and the UK Government have invested 500 million dollars each to procure 45% of shares in OneWeb, respectively. The existing stakeholders would retain the remaining 10%.Embed from Getty Images
Bharti Enterprises Limited has invested such an immense amount, keeping in mind the forever evolving technology. Airtel has rendered connectivity using traditional methods such as conventional fiber and terrestrial radio connectivity systems. Thus, this step can be considered a huge leap forward towards involving satellites and the latest technology to ensure better internet connectivity to hard-to-reach rural areas of India and other parts of the World.
This particular technology has been under development for a lot of years. Companies such as Space X and Amazon have been working on developing this technology.
The ambitious Airtel project competes with Elon Musk’s Starlink project, Jeff Bezos’s project Kuiper, and Google Loon.