Published On: Sat, Jul 4th, 2020

Elon Musk news: UK challenges Starlink with Bharti Enterprises OneWeb bid | Science | News

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The bid, made jointly with India’s Bharti Enterprises, was victorious at auction and how awaits final approval from a US judge next week. Companies and countries around the world are in competition to use satellites to provide high-speed internet from space.

American company Starlink, founded by Elon Musk, is one of the main players in the field.

In return for the investment Britain will take control of 45 percent of OneWeb.

The UK will also have veto power over any future OneWeb share sales, as well who has access to the system, in an arrangement known as a golden share.

Another 45 percent of OneWeb will be controlled by Bharti Global, a company founded by Indian telecoms billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal.

However according to the Financial Times other investors are being sought meaning the UK and Bharti Enterprises shares could fall.

Britain has an ambitious target to control 10 percent of the global commercial space market by 2030.

The UK is particularly involved with small satellites which can provide super-fast internet as well as navigational aids.

After Brexit the UK firms were barred from much of the European Galileo programme, a plan to build a medium level satellite navigation system in space.

Originally Britain considered launching its own rival to Galileo but backed off when expected costs rose to £5billion.

Whilst OneWeb is not currently profitable Mr Mittal told the Financial Times he is “convinced about the commercial viability” of the business.

He explained: “This is a company where $3.5bn has already been invested.

“We are going to get this for a fraction of cents to the dollar.

“We can now build on this.”

OneWeb, which was launched in 2012, is based in London though it has operations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, insisted the OneWeb investment would pay off for the UK.

He said: “Our access to a global fleet of satellites has the potential to connect millions of people worldwide to broadband, many for the first time, and the deal presents the opportunity to further develop our strong advanced manufacturing base right here in the UK.”

Spaceport Cornwall, the UK’s first spaceport, is under development with the first launches expected to take place in 2021 or 2022.

It is being built with the support of Virgin Orbit, the Richard Branson founded company that takes small satellites into space.

Whilst Spaceport Cornwall will initially be used to launch satellites it could end up taking people into space according to Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit.

Speaking to Express.co.uk earlier this year Mr Hart expressed confidence the spaceport will be a success.

He said: “The market has indicated in the past a need for many many small satellites launches.

“I can see a time when there is easily 50 launches in a year.

“We now have the ability to make small satellites do tremendous work that used to take a satellite the size of a school bus. That is going to change the whole business calculation.”



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