Mumbai: Billionaire Sunil Mittal-backed Bharti Enterprises said on Thursday it had bought a minority stake in privately owned OneWeb Ltd, which plans to offer high-speed, space-based Internet access across the world. Bharti has participated in a $500 million Series A funding round and Mittal will get a seat on the board of OneWeb, which aims to initially have a constellation of 648 satellites that will help provide broadband access to rural and underdeveloped locations, the companies said in separate statements.
Bankrolled in part by Richard Branson's London-based Virgin Group and chipmaker Qualcomm Inc, OneWeb plans to develop spacecrafts which will weigh less than 300 pounds (136 kg) and be positioned in orbits roughly 750 miles (1,207 km) above the earth.
OneWeb, based in Britain's Channel Islands, plans to launch services in 2019. Other companies investing in the funding round include Coca-Cola Co, Intelsat SA and Europe's Airbus Group, which earlier this month said it would build and design about 900 satellites for the venture. Bharti will be a preferred distributor of the service in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Africa with a focus on rural markets, it said in a statement.