Bharti Global, UK Government Win Auction for Internet Satellite Operator OneWeb

Britain has joined forces with India’s Bharti Global to purchase the collapsed satellite operator OneWeb, with the two sides pledging $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,468 crores) between them to develop a constellation which could boost broadband and other services.

Under the offer announced on Friday, Britain will invest $500 million (roughly Rs. 4,650 crores) and take a significant equity share in OneWeb while Bharti will invest the same amount and provide commercial and operational leadership.

The deal means the two sides will be pitted against Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the race to construct low earth orbit satellites to provide high-bandwidth and low-latency communications services.

“Our access to a global fleet of satellites has the potential to connect millions of people worldwide to broadband, many for the first time,” Business Secretary Alok Sharma said. “And the deal presents the opportunity to further develop our strong advanced manufacturing base right here in the UK.”

The deal could give a boost to Britain’s manufacturing sector, that has endured many years of uncertainty over future trading rules due to Brexit, and has now lost a large number of jobs as a result of COVID-19 crisis.

OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of March as a result of its biggest investor SoftBank Group Corp pulled funding, having an auction held on Thursday.

The deal is susceptible to a U.S. court approval and regulatory clearances, and is expected to close before the end of the entire year, the government said in a statement.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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