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Bharti-backed OneWeb, Neom Tech form $200 mn JV for satellite network

Bharti Group backed satellite company OneWeb and Saudi Arabia’s Neom Tech and Digital Holding Company have signed a pact for a USD 200 million joint venture to provide satellite-based services to Middle East and East African countries, a joint statement said Tuesday.

The joint venture firm will see the deployment of OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation to provide connectivity to enable Neom’s ecosystem of cognitive technologies.

Neom Tech and Digital Holding Company is the first holding company to be established as a subsidiary of Neom, a region in Saudi Arabia.

The middle east nation is building up the Neom region in the northwest part of the country on the Red Sea as a living lab that will focus on development of the latest technologies.

Neom Tech and Digital Holding Company and OneWeb, the only licensed operator in Saudi Arabia, expect to complete ground infrastructure in 2022.

“Neom Tech and Digital Holding Co. and the new JV entity will have exclusive rights to distribute OneWeb services in its target regions for seven years from the initiation of the LEO satellite network, which is expected to commence in 2023,” the statement said.

The agreement also includes a long-term strategic partnership regarding research and development of future connectivity systems.

“It is a great pleasure to witness the signing of the joint venture between Neom and OneWeb, which is a testament to Saudi Arabia’s promising future in the space technology sector. Today’s agreement will contribute to economic growth and accelerate digital and communications knowledge transfer to the Kingdom through the transformative Neom vision,” Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Investment, Saudi Arabia said in the statement.

India’s Bharti Group, UK government, Softbank, Hughes and Eutelsat are stakeholders in OneWeb.

“This agreement will help realise our joint vision of boosting connectivity in Saudi Arabia, Middle-East and East Africa. It exemplifies the model through which OneWeb’s services will reach unconnected or poorly connected regions through cooperation with international governments and local partners,” Oneweb executive chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said.

In 2020, OneWeb was acquired by the UK government and the Bharti group.

The UK government and Bharti Global invested USD 500 million each in the company last year. In January 2021, SoftBank and Hughes returned as equity investors with an additional USD 400 million investment. In April, Eutelsat made USD 550 million equity investment in the company for a 24 per cent stake. PTI


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