OneWeb now has 582 LEO satellites in orbit. This was the company’s 17th launch with just one more remaining to complete its targeted 648-strong constellation for enabling global satellite broadband connectivity, including in India, by July-August 2023.
“Today’s launch is an exciting milestone as we are just one mission away from completing our Gen 1 constellation, which will activate global service in 2023,” Neil Masterson, OneWeb CEO, said in a statement Friday.
The final launch of satellites will happen later this month from ISRO’s launch centre in Sriharikota, the company said.
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 got 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.
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.