Bharti Airtel Invests In OneWeb To Provide Internet in Remote Areas With 700 Micro Satellites
Bharti Airtel, World’s 4 largest telecom company having 324 million customers, has invested in OneWeb, thereby owning a minority stake in this massive mission.
In a recent round of funding, OneWeb received $500 million from a consortium of investors which include: Airbus Group, Qualcomm, Coca-Cola Co, Mexico’s Grupo Salinas, Hughes Network Systems, a unit of EchoStar and Intelsat.
Virgin Group and Qualcomm have already invested in this venture.
Sunil Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Group, said, “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,”
As a result, Bharti has become the first Indian company to be part of this global consortium, and will have a permanent member in their board. Bharti will assist OneWeb by covering remote locations within India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Africa.
What is OneWeb?
OneWeb is a venture started by Greg Wyler, ex-Google employee, which aims to provide Internet service in remotest part of the globe. They are planning to put 700 low Earth orbit, geosynchronous micro satellites in the space, which will broadcast Internet services all over the world.
These satellites will use 800 kms and 950 kms orbit around the Earth, and plan to operate at the Ku Band of radio frequency spectrum as 20 different satellites will operate in each of the 20 different orbital planes.
Their vision is to “reach hundreds of millions of potential users residing in places without [existing] broadband access”
Greg, and his team works closely with Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture which provides space transport services. Interestingly Greg was part of Google’s similar initiative of providing satellites based Internet connectivity before quitting to start his own venture. As per estimates, OneWeb requires $3 billion by 2019 to execute this dream project.
As of now, OneWeb will use Virgin Galactic (Virgin’s Space flight company) to launch 39 such satellites; and has inked deal with Europe’s Arianespace to provide 21 Soyuz rockets.
Airbus has also collaborated with OneWeb to start a high-volume space transportation company, and manufacture 1000 satellites for expanding their operations.
Alternative Channels of Internet Service
Lately, global organizations and Governments of various countries have been actively working towards finding a solution wherein Internet can be broadcasted to remote and interior locations, just like radio frequencies. Dependency on wires and optical fibres for Internet is proving to be insufficient.
Google’s Project Loon is one such idea, wherein balloons would be used to offer Internet connectivity. Recently, Google had bought Titan Aeropace, which is into solar powered satellites, which can help in Internet connectivity as well as disaster management.
Microsoft is also working on their flagship project, wherein ‘White Space’ would be used for spreading Internet connectivity.
A Portuguese firm is developing solar powered drones, which will fly up in the air, and provide Internet at 80-100 times cheaper price in remote areas.
ISRO is also planning to launch similar satellite based Internet platform, wherein India’s heaviest communication satellite: GSAT-11 would be used to broadcast Internet at 10 GBPS speed.