Hughes to invest $50 milion in Bharti-UK govt consortium for OneWeb

Kolkata: US-based satellite broadband player, Hughes Network Systems, will invest $50 million to join a consortium of India’s Bharti Enterprises and the UK government that recently won a bid to take over OneWeb – the British firm that went bankrupt while trying to build a constellation of satellites to deliver wireless broadband globally.

Hughes’ $50 million in-principle investment is likely to translate in a tiny minority stake of around 5 per cent in OneWeb, say people aware of the matter, though actual stake size is still under discussion.

At press time, Hughes and Bharti did not comment on the former’s stake in OneWeb.

“Hughes’ investment underlines OneWeb’s exciting commercial prospects, reflected in ongoing discussions with some of the world’s leading strategic and financial investors,” Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said in a media statement Monday.

Hughes, which was amongst the original clutch of investors in OneWeb, before the latter collapsed into bankruptcy in March, plans to continue its association as a technology and distribution partner.

Hughes president Pradman Kaul said the company’s strengthened involvement with OneWeb stems from its position as “a leading geo-stationary satellite operator and ground network innovator,” along with its partnership with Bharti and its longstanding relationship with the UK through its business operations in both countries.

Earlier this month, Bharti and the UK government said they would each invest $500 million in OneWeb, which aims to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband services, especially in rural areas, and take on the likes of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink and Jeff Bezos’s Amazon-linked Project Kuiper. Bharti and UK government are each likely to reportedly hold 45 per cent each in OneWeb, with Hughes and other existing investors retaining the balance 10 per cent.

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Hughes Communications India (HCIL), the majority-owned Indian arm of Hughes Network Systems, and Bharti Airtel are also in the process of combining their satellite broadband operations in India. The merger, announced last year, is awaiting regulatory approvals.



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