Shravin Mittal: India offers enough space for OneWeb and SpaceX

OneWeb SpaceX
Image courtesy OneWeb

Telecom czar Sunil Mittal’s son Shravin Mittal said that India offers enough space for both OneWeb and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to provide high-speed satellite connectivity in the country. It is also looking to raise $860 million to support its global operations.

“Our go-to-market (strategy) is slightly different from the way SpaceX approaches their business. But it only makes sense to have healthy competition as it’ll make them and us move fast, and we believe there’s enough space for the two of us to provide high-speed connectivity on the ground in India,” Mittal, Bharti Global’s managing director was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is also seeking regulatory approvals from the Indian authorities to start operations. It recently wrote to India’s telecom regulator seeking change in existing rules and regulations to allow satellite technology for broadband access in the country’s remote areas.

OneWeb recently appointed Bharti Enterprises Chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal, as executive chairman and former Thomson Reuters executive Neil Masterson as the Chief Executive Officer.

Sunil Mittal, Shravin Mittal and Bharti Enterprises’ vice president Akhil Gupta will sit on the OneWeb board, which will also have three members from the UK government.

The UK government is currently going through its public recruitment process for these members.

Mittal junior said that OneWeb is currently in talks with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Department of Space (DoS) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to seek key regulatory approvals including landing rights and market access from India. It is targeting to launch high-speed satellite broadband services in India by May/June 2022.

OneWeb recently emerged from US Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the help of a consortium of the UK government and Bharti Global which invested $1 billion in new equity into the company.

Hughes Network Systems has also invested $50 million into the venture, while Softbank has announced $90 million.

Mittal said that the company is currently in talks with investors to raise $860 million more via equity and debt financing. “We have enough capital to kickstart the project, but there’s some capital left to be raised.”

OneWeb is currently evaluating various routes to enter various markets, including India.

“Either we’ll tie up with commercial partners in relevant markets or go direct…Also, a commercial partnership need not be a JV alone, there are many ways that OneWeb could enter a market, in that, a (potential) partner could even buy OneWeb’s satellite bandwidth capacity and resell in India,” Mittal said.

The company is betting on Ku and Ka satellite spectrum bands to offer its services. Additionally, it is evaluating multiple partners and device makers to procure user terminals to deliver satellite broadband services to end-users.

“User terminal volumes are also dependent on customer demand, and there is high pent-up demand in places where there is no coverage, where you can’t put fibre, and that’s where a LEO constellation can be highly beneficial,” Mittal said. His father Sunil Mittal recently sought ISRO’s support to build affordable access terminals for OneWeb’s upcoming high-speed broadband services.

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