India’s Bharti eyes Satellite Biz; Airtel Owner Sunil Mittal bids for OneWeb

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
  • Follow author on
Bharti Airtel
Representational Image

India’s Sunil Mittal, the man behind Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel has submitted a bid for global satellite firm OneWeb which is backed by investors including SoftBank, suggest reports.

With the bid, Sunil Mittal owned Bharti Airtel has emerged as a key perspective investor among several high profile companies. The Indian Group had earlier invested in OneWeb along with Virgin Group, Airbus and Qualcomm in 2015. The investment had earned it the rights to distribute OneWeb internet in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Africa.

OneWeb is a satellite firm based in the UK and founded by Greg Wyler in 2012. It had promised the possibility of more than 600 satellites in the earth’s lower orbit that could provide affordable wireless internet services across the globe before SoftBank, it’s the largest investor stepped back from a $2 billion financing that led to its collapse.

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has been in the frontline to back OneWeb and has pledged $500 billion for the same. He is also trying to bring in fresh investments from China, the US and India. Should the deal come through, the British government will have access to a major share that gives it the right to decide the operations of the platform and its future sale.

“We have made clear our ambitions for space and are developing a new National Space Strategy to bring long-term strategic and commercial benefits to the UK,” the spokesperson of the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said in an emailed statement. “We are in regular discussions with the space industry as part of this work.”

Other major investors have also been bidding on OneWeb and the final decision is expected on Thursday.

Bharti Airtel boasts of a market value of $41 billion and is one of the largest telecom operators in the world.

Bharti Airtel and OneWeb declined to offer any comment on the matter.