Sunil Mittal, chairman of the Bharti group of business, has spoke at length about its involvement in bankrupt satellite operator OneWeb.
Bharti has committed to investment $500 million in OneWeb. The UK government is matching the investment, while a smaller sum ($50 million) will come from EchoStar’s sister company Hughes Network Systems. Japan’s SoftBank and other pre-bankruptcy investors in OneWeb will also see some debt converted to equity in a restructured post-bankruptcy OneWeb business.
OneWeb wants to place 650 satellites into orbit. It currently has just 74 in orbit.
Mittal, speaking at a webinar organised by the Indian government and space agency, said that Bharti is already working on user terminals for the OneWeb transmissions. He added that he expected OneWeb to start test services later next year prior to a full service introduction in 2022.
One of the challenges is to bring the cost of user terminals down to affordable levels. Dylan Browne, speaking at this year’s Satellite 2020 event and then president of OneWeb’s government business unit and speaking ahead of the bankruptcy, said that OneWeb expected to have user terminals costing between $1000-$1500 each for community-based services.
Mittal said that extensive testing would take place on potential user terminal suppliers and solutions and called for India’s Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to help in the development of consumer terminals. “It is here we would like to see ISRO’s hand and support in work to develop user terminals which cater to the needs of Indian requirements.”
He added that OneWeb would be looking for a cooperation agreement with ISRO on a combination of Geostationary and Low Earth orbiting satellites for OneWeb links.