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Hughes Forms Joint Venture With Bharti Airtel for Satellite Broadband in India

By Mark Holmes, Rachel Jewett | January 5, 2022

Indian flag. Photo: Pixabay

Hughes Network Systems has taken a major step forward to advance its broadband ambitions in India, forming a joint venture with Bharti Airtel (Airtel) to provide satellite broadband services in India. The joint venture — HCIPL (Hughes Communications India Pvt Ltd) — will combine the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) businesses of both companies to offer enterprise networking solutions using satellite for primary transport, back-up, and hybrid implementation.

The Jan. 4 announcement marks the closing of an agreement first announced in May 2019. HCIPL has now received all statutory approvals, including those from the National Company Law Tribunal and Indian government’s Department of Telecom and the joint venture has been formed.

Now serving Airtel VSAT customers, HCIPL has a combined base of over 200,000 VSATs. The company now claims it is the largest satellite service operator in India.

Hughes said HCIPL provides broadband networking technologies, solutions and services, including managed network services. The company will serve government offices and enterprises across segments like banking, aeronautical and maritime mobility, small to medium sized businesses, education, and telecom backhaul, among others.

“We are pleased to commence this joint venture, further delivering on our commitment to serve the growing demand for always on, always available network connectivity for enterprise and government customers. Combining the proven capabilities of both Hughes and Airtel, the partnership will bring synergies to the forefront – including multi-orbit solutions – for the benefit of customers across the length and breadth of India,” Partho Banerjee, president and managing director of HCIPL said in a statement.

Bharti Airtel is the flagship company of Bharti Enterprises, is a global telecommunications company founded by Sunil Bharti Mittal. Bharti Global is the largest shareholder in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation operator OneWeb, of which Hughes is also a shareholder.

Hughes and OneWeb have an MoU in place for Hughes to distribute OneWeb capacity in India via HCIPL. The companies announced in September 2021 that HCIPL will distribute services in India to large enterprises, government, telcos, and ISPs in the rural and remote parts of the country.

This joint venture comes after the Indian government ordered SpaceX to stop taking pre-orders for Starlink in India because it does not have a license to operate in the country. Sanjay Bhargava, the head of Starlink India, stepped down from his role, Techcrunch reported Tuesday. Starlink was looking to provide satellite broadband in India, which would have made it a direct competitor with HCIPL.