Satellite broadband provider OneWeb has announced a major expansion of its footprint in deals with Airtel Africa to bring low-latency low Earth orbit (LEO) connectivity services to government and enterprise customers, and has signed a distribution partnership agreement with satellite service provider Azyan Telecom in the Sultanate of Oman and the Middle East.
The announcement comes just days after a UK parliamentary committee report concluded that the benefit to UK taxpayers of OneWeb, into which $500m has been invested, was unclear.
The partnership with Airtel Africa builds on OneWeb’s existing initiatives in Africa, including installations of satellite network portals (SNPs) in Angola, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal and Mauritius. It will focus on delivering satellite communications services to enterprise and civil government customers across selected areas of the continent for a wide range of use cases, including connectivity in rural areas, agriculture, hospitals, hotels, schools, and in the energy and mining sectors. OneWeb and Airtel Africa will also provide critical backhaul in unserved and underserved regions.
With only four more launches of craft in its constellation to go, OneWeb said it also remains on track to activate its coverage solutions in Africa, and elsewhere around the world, in 2023.
“Internet penetration is rising across Africa and systems are even more connected as the digital transformation is driving growth among organisations,” said Luc Serviant, group enterprise director, Airtel Business at Airtel Africa. “Through our partnership with OneWeb, we will support SMEs, entrepreneurs, corporates and governments to do business everywhere in Africa, with low-latency and highly resilient communication services.
“OneWeb and Airtel Africa will begin trialling service in South Africa in September, with plans to achieve full coverage in 2023 across Airtel Africa’s footprint, comprising 14 countries in East, Central and West Africa.”
Meanwhile in Asia, OneWeb and its joint venture entity formed with Tonomus have inked a distribution partnership agreement with Azyan Telecom, a satellite service provider in the Sultanate of Oman and the Middle East. The partnership aims to enhance the capabilities of existing and future national telecom networks in Oman through OneWeb’s space-based communication capabilities of high-speed, low-latency connectivity.
This will, in turn, contribute to ensuring access for companies and communities to high-speed communications that are compatible with advanced terrestrial systems and networks, said OneWeb. This coverage will also be extended to encompass remote and rural areas in Oman by providing diverse and multiple digital communication sources to those areas.
Azyan Telecom will use OneWeb’s global connectivity network to expand its existing connectivity in Oman and provide high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity to the entire country. To date, the delivery of high-speed connections has been challenging in parts of Oman because of the terrain and frequent hurricanes. Services are set to start in the second half of 2023 and will focus on delivering widespread connection to some of the more remote and challenging parts of the country.
OneWeb said the strategic geographic position of Oman and the diversity of its international terrestrial and submarine infrastructures is a potential location for it to deploy a network platform in the country, in order to provide satellite broadband services to the region at large.
“We are excited to be cooperating with Azyan Telecom to deliver widespread connectivity across the Sultanate of Oman and support government efforts to provide reliable connectivity for the Sultanate,” said OneWeb NEOM JV chief executive officer Laith Hamad. “Our partnership will help to bring affordable connectivity to the widest possible audience in the region, particularly given the challenging conditions that have left many without high-speed connection.
“This is another great milestone towards enabling connectivity through OneWeb LEO satellite technologies enabled by the OneWeb Tonomus JV in the region. We convey our sincere appreciation to the Omani Telecommunication Regulatory Authority for all their support.”
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