Sunil Mittal-backed OneWeb ties up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX after Russian agreement suspended – Times of India


NEW DELHI: OneWeb, the satellite telephony company backed by Sunil Mittal’s Bharti group and the UK government, has partnered Elon Musk‘s SpaceX — its potential business rival globally — for launching satellites after the Russia-Ukraine crisis saw the suspension of its plans from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The company, which plans to start commercial services globally later this year through its low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, is yet to complete its constellation of 648 satellites, having put in place around 66% or 428 so far.
The rest 220 would now be launched through SpaceX.
The first launch with SpaceX is anticipated this year and will help complete OneWeb’s network as it moves towards delivering high-speed, low-latency global connectivity.
The suspension of launch plans from the Baikonur Cosmodrome came in amidst rising tensions between the West and Russia over the latter’s military actions in Ukraine.
The move was also supported by the British government which said, “In light of Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we are reviewing our participation in all further projects involving Russian collaboration.”
However, conditions put in by Russian space agency Roscosmos are also understood to have prompted the companies to suspend their agreement. According to report by Russian news agency reported Interfax, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin had said that his agency wanted guarantees from OneWeb that its satellites would not be used against Russia.
Without these, Rogozin said Russia would cancel satellite launches planned for OneWeb from the Baikonur cosmodrome (which Russia rents from Kazakhstan).
However, with the agreement with SpaceX in place, OneWeb now seems to be assured around its satellite launch schedule. “We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space. With these launch plans in place, we’re on track to finish building out our full fleet of satellites and deliver robust, fast, secure connectivity around the globe,” OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said.
OneWeb has already started its test services in certain parts of Europe and Canada, and plans to have a commercial launch later this year across many countries in the western hemisphere and also in India.
“Demand for OneWeb’s broadband connectivity services has continued to grow across telecommunications providers, aviation and maritime markets, and governments worldwide… early partners are initiating service,” the company said.
OneWeb had been rescued from bankruptcy by Britain and Bharti Global in 2020. Eutelsat and SoftBank have also invested in the company.
In India, OneWeb is believed to have received an approval from the Department of Telecommunications to set up satellite earth stations, a precursor to starting services commercially.
In January this year, OneWeb announced a six-year distribution partner agreement with Hughes Communications India to provide connectivity services in the country. Hughes Communications is a joint venture between Hughes and Bharti Airtel.
The company said that it plans to deliver services to enterprise and governments, especially in areas outside the reach of fiber connectivity. “OneWeb will connect towns, villages, and local and regional municipalities in those hardest-to-reach areas, playing a critical role in bridging the digital divide.”


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