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Hughes and Bharti-backed OneWeb to provide satellite broadband in remote areas

Satellite constellations like OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink have been eyeing the Indian market, where large gaps in rural coverage seem primed for service. As Bharti-backed OneWeb signs an MOU with Hughes, which has been in the Indian satellite space for a while, low-earth orbit satellite broadband may soon be a reality.

Bharti-backed OneWeb and satellite company Hughes will provide satellite broadband in rural and remote parts of India, the companies announced in a press release. Hughes said that it had signed an MOU with OneWeb, under which the company would develop ground infrastructure to connect to OneWeb's satellite network, and work together to improve access to backhaul bandwidth in places where such broadband will be made available. Backhaul connectivity is one of the largest problems faced by telecom operators, as it either requires a lot of spectrum or terrestrial cabling with high bandwidth that  is harder to build in rural areas. OneWeb runs a low-earth orbit satellite constellation, a non-geostationary setup that works as a mesh that blankets the earth to provide internet access covering many parts of the earth at once. Hughes equipment will be used to connect to OneWeb's LEO constellation on earth, the company said. The government, telecom operators and private companies in the satellite business have said that they are keen on satellite broadband. With LEO constellations like OneWeb and SpaceX's Starlink, existing networks in the sky can immediately provide connectivity down on earth. But there are several policy obstacles to clear — as we explained on Thursday, spectrum has to be sold, the Spacecom Policy has to allow for such LEO constellations, security questions have to be worked out, and, as a DoT official explained, "a geography-specific licencing framework" may have to be set up. If these hurdles are crossed, though, satellite broadband in India is…

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