Bharti Group’s flagship company, Bharti Airtel, has been struggling to reward its shareholders due to intense competition in last few years from Jio, which had wiped out most telecom players, leaving only 3 private names in the race. To be fair, Vodafone Idea is on a virtual life support and may continue to do so unless bought over by a new player, so it is virtually a two horse race.
But Bharti spirit is still seen high, as seen planning for the future. Their acquisition of OneWeb is a bold step in the right direction. OneWeb operates a web of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide high speed internet to any location on the planet. The most obvious advantage is, you do not need fibre or below ground cables to reach the remotest parts and once fully functional, can cover the entire planet.
OneWeb was the leader in the space, until financial troubles hit and went into bankruptcy. But as spectrum is key for any telecom business and that’s the crux of the OneWeb story. Being the first mover, it holds the priority rights of the Ku band spectrum globally and all others will need to follow the rules it sets. If it can get its act together, it can lead the space over the next decade and diversify its current business.
The only current real competition in the space is from Elon Musk’s SpaceX which has already launched over 1,000 satellites and is already delivering 200+ Mbps in beta trials. It is planning a massive globally launch of its services in next 2 years. So if Bharti can deliver on this, it will provide a huge boost to its coverage domestically and internationally.
Also, do not rule out possible collaboration between OneWeb and SpaceX as well in the future ...