Bharti buys stake in satellite firm OneWeb to bridge digital divide

With an aim to enable affordable broadband for rural and underdeveloped locations in India, the country’s business conglomerate Bharti has acquired a minority stake in OneWeb, which plans to offer communication services using satellites by 2019.

“The dream of fully bridging the digital divide is on track to be a reality in 2019,” said Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb.

Found in 2012, OneWeb has raised $500 million of funding from a group of leading international companies like Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, (Hughes), a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp., Intelsat, Qualcomm Incorporated, The Coca-Cola Company, the Virgin Group, and Totalplay, a Grupo Salinas Company which is owned by Ricardo B. Salinas.

OneWeb is building a communication network with an initial constellation of 648 low earth orbit satellites. Investors in the company include Qualcomm Inc, Virgin Group, Airbus Group and Coca-Cola Company. Bharti did not share investment details in OneWeb but said it will be able to leverage the investment by becoming a preferred distributor of these services across its operations in 20 countries in Asia and Africa.

Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said in a statement, “Access to affordable high speed Internet is a powerful tool for economic development and empowerment of populations, particularly in emerging economies. OneWeb, an innovative system backed by leading global corporations, will complement the efforts of governments and telecom operators across the globe to take internet to the masses.”

The OneWeb mission, which is aiming to connect the remote areas with the rest of the world by making Internet affordable, will surely be a game-changer.


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