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OneWeb’s India launch delayed to early 2023 due to Russia-Ukraine war

Sunil Mittal-backed OneWeb has pushed back the commercial launch of its satellite communication services in India to early 2023.

The company had earlier said that it plans to launch services in India by the middle of 2022. But the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis has forced the satellite major to cancel the planned launch of 36 satellites on Russia’s Soyuz rockets.

A OneWeb spokesperson told BusinessLine, that now, OneWeb, plans for an early 2023 launch of its satellite broadband services in India.

Tie up with SpaceX, ISRO
“The ongoing geopolitical crisis in Ukraine, which is beyond our control, has obviously impacted the launch schedule of our remaining 220 satellites. This delays the commercial rollout of services in the rest of the world. The company has moved fast to close alternate launch arrangements with SpaceX and NSIL (ISRO). We are confident that we should be able to rollout services in the remaining geographies, including India, in early 2023.”

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine threw a wrench in the company’s plans as Russia cancelled its agreement with UK based company, after encountering disagreements with the British government. OneWeb now plans to complete its fleet in collaboration with Elon Musk’s SpaceX as well as New Space India Limited (ISRO), who will allow the LEO player to resume its satellite launches.

New Spacecom policy
Uncertainty over launch of commercial services in India also looms, because the Department of Space is yet to release its new Spacecom policy. The policy which has been in the draft stage for more than two years is eagerly awaited upon by members of the satcom community, as it will lay out the exact contours on which the newly liberlized space sector will operate.

OneWeb has the requisite NLD and GMPCs licences to set up earth stations and provide telecommunication sservices. However regulations are still unclear around whether the spectrum will transmit data to end user devices (access spectrum) as well as transmit data back to the satellites (spectrum for gateways) will be auctioned. Both the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India as well as DoS are weighing on this matter as per sources.

Pact with Hughes Communications
BusinessLine also spoke to Hughes Communications India, to whom OneWeb has contracted a significant majority of its capacity for India, regarding what services will be offered using OneWeb’s technology. Partho Banerjee, president and managing director of Hughes Communications India Private told BusinessLine, “Hughes has plans to use the OneWeb capacity for their existing and new clients. Hughes would be able to offer connectivity services to enterprise branches for a stronger performance and value proposition using OneWeb’s capacity. OneWeb’s LEO systems has much lower latency in comparison to GEO satellites currently in use by Hughes”

Banerjee added further, “While provision of rural broadband connectivity through OneWeb will be a key focus, Hughes will be distributing OneWeb’s connectivity in urban areas as well to enterprises for select and strategic applications.” The Hindu BusinessLine

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