OneWeb is on track to launch its low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation for broadband service in India, its largest market. On Tuesday, the company’s local subsidiary, OneWeb India, said that it has acquired approval from India’s space regulator, IN-SPACe, to launch commercial satellite broadband services in the country. The clearance will allow OneWeb India to operate as soon as it receives the final spectrum authorization from the Department of Telecommunications for its gateways and user terminal operations in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, which the firm said would secure high-speed, low-latency connectivity.
The approval makes OneWeb India the first organization to be granted this authorization. However, it must await a spectrum allocation from the government for its gateways and user terminal operations before it can launch services. The approval will also help OneWeb acquire users in the country ahead of rival Starlink, which is still waiting for a global mobile personal communications by satellites (GMPCS) license to operate in the region.
According to Cyril Dujardin, co-general manager for Connectivity at Eutelsat, the Indian market accounts for more than half of the world’s internet traffic and is set to grow significantly in the coming years. OneWeb’s constellation, which will cover more than 100 million households, is designed to bring affordable and reliable broadband internet to rural areas and remote islands across the globe. It will also be able to provide high-speed internet to businesses in cities, reducing data costs by providing access to satellite connections for fixed and mobile networks.
Bharti Group, which owns a stake in OneWeb, has invested over $1 billion in the project. The telco plans to offer its subscribers connectivity on the back of the LEO satellites, allowing it to lower customer data costs. It will be the only Indian telecom to offer such a service on the back of its satellites.
The GEN-1 constellation will be capable of delivering speeds up to 10Mbps and up to 500Mbps in the future, depending on the capacity of the gateways. It will be positioned in an orbit around 2,000 km above Earth, ideal for high-speed internet and the development of connected cars.
GEN-2 will be launched in 2023 and is expected to reach a capacity of up to 20,000 satellites, which should be sufficient for global coverage. The GEN-2 satellite design requires access to the entire Ku and Ka spectrum, which will be available on its own or in partnership with other service providers.
Bharti Group owns more than 30 percent of OneWeb, with the remaining shares held by Japanese internet giant SoftBank and U.S.-based antenna maker Hughes Network Systems. The latter injected an additional $550 million into OneWeb in January, bringing its total investment in the project to $700 million. The latest funding boost will enable the project to complete its planned financing and prepare for its commercial launch. The startup had been on the verge of collapse in 2020 until Bharti and SoftBank rescued it.