Billionaire Sunil Mittal-promoted Bharti Enterprises will hold a minority stake in OneWeb, a global broadband initiative with the aim of offering affordable internet access to all.
OneWeb, which will kick off broadband services by 2019, will deploy hundreds of Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites to enable delivery of high quality, low-latency broadband services, both fixed and mobile, as a combined offering with cellular networks.
OneWeb today announced $500 million in funding from its investors. The $500 million initial funding allows OneWeb to further develop key technologies to enable affordable broadband for rural and underdeveloped locations. Investment came from Airbus Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Grupo Salinas, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Qualcomm and Virgin Group.
The company said OneWeb User Terminals are optionally solar powered. Terminals will have embedded LTE, 3G, 2G and Wi-Fi access capabilities will extend the mobile operator’s reach. OneWeb will have an initial constellation of 648 Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide connectivity.
The network will provide unprecedented speeds and low latency access to ships, planes, trains and oil platforms while providing seamless interoperability with Intelsat’s fleet of Ku band satellites. OneWeb does not talk about specific details about broadband speed.
With more than 10 terabits per second of capacity, the system will 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, will be a preferred distributor of the service in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Africa, with a strong focus on rural markets.
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.”
“The dream of fully bridging the digital divide is on track to be a reality in 2019,” said Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb.
Its board members include Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder of Bharti Enterprises, Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus Group, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, Paul Jacobs, executive chairman of Qualcomm and Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb.
How will Oneweb deliver affordable high speed internet to user?
OneWeb satellites will provide high speed connectivity to a small user terminal which transmits broadband access via Wi-Fi, LTE, 3G and 2G to the surrounding area. This access will operate on mobile operators billing platform with the mobile operators cell phone.
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. Any user handset can roam onto the OneWeb network without knowing that 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.