The UK government has pledged to invest $ 500 million (£ 400 million) in the bankrupt satellite company OneWeb, giving it a stake in a company that provides broadband from space.
The government will receive a “significant equity stake” in the firm as it seeks to make “high risk and high yield” investments in promising technologies.
Indian telecommunications Bharti will also invest $ 500 million, which “will bring OneWeb a revenue base to contribute to its future success,” the government said Friday. Much of India does not have high-speed Internet access.
The deal, which is still subject to approval by the American court, is expected to close later this year. The Financial Times reported that the deal includes a commitment to bring the production of OneWeb satellites from the United States to the United Kingdom, where it is based.
OneWeb’s main competitor is Starlink, the satellite company run by Elon Musk’s billionaire SpaceX.
OneWeb was founded in 2012 by the American entrepreneur Greg Wyler with the aim of providing inexpensive Internet access worldwide through a network of hundreds of satellites.
However, OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States in late March to try to find a buyer after the coronavirus pandemic prompted investors to obtain funding for the investment-hungry venture.
Alok Sharma, the trade secretary, said: “This deal underscores the extent of Britain’s ambitions on the global stage.
“Our access to a global fleet of satellites has the potential to connect millions of people around the world to broadband, many for the first time, and the deal offers the opportunity to further develop our own strong advanced production base. here in the UK. “
The deal will give the UK a “sovereign global satellite system” as well as “strategic opportunities in a wide range of other applications,” said the government.
However, experts have wondered if OneWeb technology offers the right capabilities to the UK.
The government had the ambition to create its own rival to the United States’ global positioning system (GPS), although it reportedly scaled back those plans. The United Kingdom has been excluded from the EU’s Galileo system due to Brexit.
The UK will have the final say on any future sales by the company and future access to OneWeb technology by other countries for national security reasons.