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Bharti joins OneWeb's mission to build a new global communications system to provide affordable Internet access for all

A constellation of 648 low-orbit telecom class satellites to provide high-speed Internet access to consumers in rural and unconnected areas across the world

  • ● Bharti to hold strategic minority stake in OneWeb through a global subsidiary.
  • ● Qualcomm Incorporated, Virgin Group, Airbus Group, Coca-Cola Company, Intelsat and Grupo Salinas among other investors in the company, which plans to start services in 2019
  • ● USD 500 million funding from investors
  • ● Bharti Airtel, a Bharti group company, will be a preferred distributor of the service in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Africa, with a strong focus on rural markets

New Delhi, June 25, 2015: Bharti Enterprises (“Bharti”), one of India’s leading business groups, today said that it has acquired a strategic minority stake in OneWeb, which is supported by a global consortium with an aim to provide affordable internet access to all. As one of the founding members of OneWeb, Bharti will have representation on the Board of the company. OneWeb today announced USD 500 million in funding from its investors to take forward its mission.

OneWeb’s mission is to enable affordable Internet access for everyone and the Company aims to build a communications network with an initial constellation of 648 Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide connectivity to billions of people around the world. The OneWeb User Terminals contain embedded LTE, 3G, 2G and Wifi access capabilities that extend the reach of mobile operators. With more than 10 terabits per second of new capacity, the system will transparently extend the networks of mobile operators and ISPs to serve new coverage areas, bringing voice and data access to consumers, businesses, schools, healthcare institutions and other end users.

Bharti Airtel, a Bharti group company with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, will be able to leverage the investment by becoming a preferred distributor of these services across its operations. Bharti Airtel’s mobile networks currently cover a population of over 1.85 billion people and is supported by a vast distribution set-up with presence in rural areas.

Announcing the investment, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Enterprises 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. Having witnessed the deep positive impact of enabling communications across our global operations, Bharti is delighted to be a part of this initiative that will accelerate the journey towards building a digitally inclusive world.”

“In India, which is on the cusp of a massive data revolution, hundreds millions of consumers in rural areas will benefit from this initiative and it will boost the Government’s Digital India program and its vision of broadband access for all. Similarly, nations across Africa will be able to fulfill their digital inclusion agenda and aid economic growth through these affordable services.”

Following the announcement of its joint venture with Airbus Space and Defence to build the highest volume satellite production factory in the world, OneWeb today also announced the largest commercial rocket acquisition ever of more than 65 rockets from Arianespace and Virgin Galactic. Arianespace will be providing 21 Soyuz rockets from 3 separate launch pads on a firm schedule, 5 Soyuz options and 3 Ariane 6 options. Virgin Galactic will be providing 39 separate launches.

“The dream of fully bridging the digital divide is on track to be a reality in 2019,” said Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb. “Together with our committed and visionary founding shareholders we have the key elements in place: regulatory, technology, launches, satellites, as well as commercial operators in over 50 countries and territories. We are committed to solving one of the world’s biggest problems – enabling affordable broadband Internet access for everyone. We are excited about the next phase, which will involve working with countries, telecom operators and aid organisations to help them realize their goals of open and ubiquitous access.”

OneWeb has also raised investment from Airbus Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Grupo Salinas, Hughes Network Systems, (Hughes), a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp., Intelsat, Qualcomm Incorporated and Virgin Group. The company plans to start services by 2019.

“We’re very excited to be part of OneWeb’s endeavor to provide global Internet access for everybody, everywhere. Whether at some remote place on earth or flying high on an Airbus aircraft, you’ll be connected: a grand proposition for mankind and a sound business opportunity for us! We are committed to giving our full industrial and space expertise to this mission,” said Tom Enders, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Group.

“This project is exciting because it combines commerce with purpose,” said Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company. “We believe it will help spur local economic development where people are in the greatest need, while also helping our business by improving real-time access to some of the world’s most remote areas where we are already active in helping provide opportunities for entrepreneurs.”

“We would like nothing better than to bring true affordable broadband coverage to 100% of Mexico, but running cables and placing towers for that level of coverage has just not been possible. We are backing OneWeb, as we believe it has all the pieces in place to create that service in the future,” said Ricardo Salinas, Chairman of Grupo Salinas.

“OneWeb is a game-changing next generation satellite system,” said Pradman Kaul, President of Hughes. “We have been looking at every detail and are excited to participate both in the design, development and production of the ground system. In addition, we will employ the OneWeb network to deliver services to our global base of customers and distribution partners.”

“Intelsat provides more satellite broadband connectivity to more users than any other company. From communities to nations, from enterprises to telecommunications operators and content owners, Intelsat has witnessed firsthand the economic growth and value creation that result from access to reliable communications,” said Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat S.A. “Our role in the commercial space sector is to push for innovations that can drive increased performance, economics and simple access for our users. Intelsat has the world’s largest fleet of Ku Band geostationary satellites and our interoperability will enable pole-to-pole and urban canyon coverage with new services that further our goal of a connected world.”

“Qualcomm is committed to working with the ecosystem to extend connectivity to everyone, everywhere, and everything around the world through our innovative technologies. Our investment with OneWeb along with our expertise and core technologies furthers this objective,” said Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, Executive Chairman of Qualcomm Incorporated.

“Our vision is to make the Internet affordable for everyone, connecting remote areas to rest of the world and helping to raise living standards and prosperity in some of the poorest regions today,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. “We believe that OneWeb, together with Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne satellite launch system, has the capability to make this a reality.”

Barclays acted as exclusive placement agent to OneWeb.

How will the Oneweb system operate and deliver affordable high speed internet to user?

OneWeb satellites will provide high speed connectivity to a small user terminal which transmits broadband access via wifi, LTE, 3G and 2G to the surrounding area. This access will operate on mobile operators billing platform with the mobile operators cell phone. In other words, any Bharti user who walks near a terminal, if there is no macrocell tower around, or if the terminal is used for densification (i.e. the macro tower is overloaded), then the cell phone will connect to the terminal and operate as normal, using either the prepaid or postpaid billing platform of Bharti.

Thus, any user handset can “roam” onto the OneWeb network, but of course they wouldn’t know they are roaming.

The terminals can be optionally solar powered and used as Community Access Points on schools, health centers or other locations.

The terminals can be placed on any home or business and an RJ45 cable can be run into the house to connect to a small device similar to a cable modem. At the same time the terminal would, if necessary provide the local wireless coverage.

About Bharti Enterprises

Bharti Enterprises is one of India’s leading business groups with interests in telecom, agri business, financial services, retail and manufacturing. Bharti has been a pioneering force in the Indian telecom sector with many firsts and innovations to its credit. Bharti Airtel, the group's flagship company, is a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa. The Company ranks amongst the top 4 mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers. Other business ventures of the group include Bharti Softbank - a JV between Bharti Enterprises and Softbank Corp - for mobile internet. Beetel Teletech, a JV between Bharti and Brightstar is India’s leading manufacturer and distributor of telecom, IT and allied products. The group has a JV –FieldFresh Foods – with Del Monte Pacific Ltd, to offer fresh and processed fruits and vegetables in the domestic as well as international markets. Bharti has JVs with AXA, world leader in financial protection and wealth management, for Life Insurance and General Insurance. The group has presence in the retail sector through Bharti Retail that operates stores in multiple formats under the ‘easyday’ brand.