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Bharti group backed-OneWeb, the low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company, and Hughes Communications India Pvt Ltd (HCIPL) have inked a six-year distribution pact to provide broadband-from-space connectivity services across India.

HCIPL is a 67:33 joint venture between US-based Hughes and Bharti Airtel OneWeb is expected to start satellite broadband services in India from mid-2022, and will connect towns, villages, and local and regional municipalities in the hardest-to-reach areas.

The latest OneWeb-Hughes satellite broadband services distribution pact stems from an MoU inked between the two companies last September. No financials details were provided in a joint statement issued on Thursday.

In the statement, OneWeb’s CEO Neil Masterson said the company would partner with Hughes to “offer high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband solutions and contribute to the Digital India vision”.

OneWeb’s constellation, he said, would cover the length and breadth of India, from Ladakh to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to the Northeast and bring secure solutions to enterprises, governments, telcos, airline companies and maritime customers. “OneWeb will invest in setting up enabling infrastructure such as Gateways and PoPs in India to light up the services,” he added.

Partho Banerjee, HCIPL’s managing director, in turn, said “enterprise and government customers, including telecom service providers, banks, factories, schools, defence organisations, domestic airlines, and offshore vessel operators, are eagerly anticipating the arrival of new high performing satcom services”.

The OneWeb-Hughes satcom services distribution pact comes at a time when the likes OneWeb, Elon Musk’s Starlink, Jeff Bezos-founded Amazon and the Tata-Telesat combine are readying to enter India’s emerging satellite broadband services market, leveraging on their respective global low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations. OneWeb plans to launch its high speed satellite broadband services in India this year to tap into a $1 billion-plus near-term annual revenue opportunity.

OneWeb – co-owned by India’s Bharti group and the UK government -- has already applied to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for two permits – a national long distance (NLD) and a GMPCS (global mobile personal communications by satellite services) licence for delivering satellite broadband services. DoT has issued a letter of Intent (LoI) to OneWeb for NLD services via satellite, while the one for GMPCS is still pending.