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  • Writer's pictureRANGAN PAL

Bharti-backed OneWeb's final LEO satellites launch from ISRO space centre on March 26

Bharti Group-backed OneWeb will launch its final batch of 36 satellites from ISRO’s space centre in Sriharikota on March 26.

The upcoming launch – the company’s 18th-- will complete OneWeb’s targeted 648-strong low-earth orbit (LEO) constellation to start global satellite broadband connectivity, including in India, by July-August 2023.

“This launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota will be OneWeb’s third this year, completing its first generation LEO constellation, and enabling the company to initiate global coverage in 2023,” the company said in an official statement Thursday.

OneWeb’s final launch of satellites will be conducted by New Space India Ltd (NSIL), the commercial arm of ISRO.

Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal had recently said at Mobile World Congress-2023 that OneWeb is targeting its India launch around July-August this year. The India launch, which was originally scheduled around May-June 2022, has been delayed by the continuing Russia-Ukraine war, he had said.

Co-owned by Bharti Group and the UK government, OneWeb had bagged the crucial GMPCS (global mobile personal communications by satellite services) permit from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) about a year ago.

The upcoming space mission will mark OneWeb’s second satellite deployment from India, underlining the collaboration between the UK and Indian space industries. Across India, OneWeb will bring secured solutions not only to enterprises but also to towns, villages, municipalities and schools, including the hardest-to-reach areas across the country.

Private satellite players, though, are waiting for the government to notify the new Spacecom policy which will define the role of Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) – a central regulatory body – and authorise it to issue the vital landing rights and market access clearances. Such statutory approvals are vital for private satellite players to use their low-earth orbit or medium earth orbit satellite constellations and launch internet-from-space services in the country.

The latest developments come at a time when India’s space economy is estimated to be worth around $13 billion by 2025. Almost 75% of rural India doesn’t have access to broadband as many locations are still without cellular or fibre connectivity. Satcoms, as a result, is seen as an alternative to connect the unconnected.

Besides OneWeb, Reliance Jio has also received a GMPCS licence to roll out satellite broadband services. Elon Musk’s Starlink and Nelco, a Tata group satcom company, have also applied for the same permit. Amazon’s Project Kuiper too is eying the emerging satellite broadband opportunity in India.


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