OneWeb, the satellite telephony company funded by Airtel’s Sunil Mittal and U.K. Government, has struck a strategic deal with Elon Musk’s Space X. This is a unique partnership considering that both are rival companies and will soon compete with each other in a race to capture the satellite broadband market. As per the agreement, Space X will now launch reminder of OneWeb’s satellites.
OneWeb was actually forced to tie up with its rival SpaceX, largely owing to the Russian-Ukraine war. Earlier OneWeb’s satellites were launched by Russian state owned space agency Roscosmos. Till now, Roscosmos has placed OneWeb’s nearly 428 satellites in the orbit. But this partnership faltered in the aftermath of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, with U.K government especially taking a stern stand against Russia’s military invasion.
However, reports also suggest that Roscosmos stubborn and inflexible attitude was equally responsible for breaking this partnership. Roscosmos wanted to extract guarantee from OneWeb that its satellites won’t be used against Russia, reports claim. Reports further claimed that Roscosmos also wanted the U.K government to absolve its stake in the OneWeb company.
Following the agreement with SpaceX, OneWeb will now launch 220 Low-earth orbit (LEO satellites) with the help of Elon Musk’s company. OneWeb aims to place total 648 LEOs in the orbit. Both companies have refused to disclose the terms and condition of this agreement. OneWeb said that its first LEO launch with SpaceX is slated for later this year.
SpaceX is currently way ahead of OneWeb as far as placing LEOs in the earth’s orbit is concerned. Additionally, Musk’s company is aggressively pushing for expansion, seeking to enter newer markets. SpaceX’s Starlink has already setup a subsidiary company in India but has so far failed to get license from the Indian government.
OneWeb is equally expected to seek license from the Indian government for providing satellite broadband services in the company.
However, the battle for India’s satellite broadband market is unlikely to be two horse race as Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio has also entered the fray. Earlier this year, Ambani’s Reliance Jio tied up with Luxemburg based SES to offer affordable and scalable satellite based internet services in India.