NEOM Tech & Digital Holding Company – a subsidiary of NEOM – and OneWeb, the global communications network powered from space, have signed a $200 million joint venture to bring high-speed satellite connectivity to NEOM, Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East and neighbouring East African countries.
The partnership will see the deployment of OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, which will not only provide the rapid and reliable connectivity to enable NEOM’s ecosystem of cognitive technologies, but also transform businesses and rural communities in the region where access to fiber-like internet was previously unimaginable.
The agreement also includes a long-term strategic partnership regarding research and development of future connectivity systems.
It also builds on the relationship between OneWeb and the Ministry Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA). Established in 2017, OneWeb is focused on unlocking Saudi Arabia’s nascent orbital space technology sector for private investors. In addition, it further strengthens ties between Saudi Arabia and the UK Government, which is a major strategic investor in OneWeb.
NEOM Tech & Digital and OneWeb, the second largest LEO operator with 358 satellites and the only licensed operator in Saudi Arabia, expect to complete ground infrastructure in 2022. NEOM Tech & Digital and the new JV entity will have exclusive rights to distribute OneWeb services in its target regions for seven years from the initiation of the LEO satellite network, which is expected to commence in 2023.
Joseph Bradley, CEO, NEOM Tech & Digital, and Neil Masterson, CEO, OneWeb, formalised the agreement at a signing ceremony at the Kingdom’s flagship Future Investment Initiative event. Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Investment, Saudi Arabia; Abdullah Alswaha, Minister for Communications & Information Technology, Saudi Arabia; and Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman, OneWeb, were among those present at the occasion.
Al-Falih said: “It is a great pleasure to witness the signing of the joint venture between NEOM and OneWeb, which is a testament to Saudi Arabia’s promising future in the space technology sectors. The agreement will contribute to economic growth and accelerate digital and communications knowledge transfer to the Kingdom through the transformative NEOM vision.”
Also Read: Why DataOps Is Critical To Your Business
Al Swaha added: “This ground-breaking joint venture shows the power of collaboration between nations, and with the private sector. By working together, we will bring digital connectivity to a region of more than a billion people, opening access to life-changing opportunities in education, healthcare and the job market. We are one step closer to ensuring that no child is left on the wrong side of the digital divide.”
CEO Bradley added: “We aim to connect 100 per cent of NEOM’s territory yet we must also preserve the natural environment. This is what drives us to innovate with partners such as OneWeb to create sustainable ways to accelerate human progress. The partnership has the potential to transform the way governments, businesses and communities connect to the internet.”
Speaking for OneWeb, Masterson said: “This agreement represents OneWeb’s global vision to help bridge the digital divide through our innovative LEO satellite network. By working with NEOM Tech & Digital, OneWeb will support the ambitions of NEOM, connecting businesses and communities and supporting the resilience of connectivity systems across the wider region.”
The partnership supports NEOM Tech & Digital’s international connectivity strategy, which will use connections to sub-sea and terrestrial communications cables, the construction of 5G and fibre networks, and now LEO satellites to secure access to tens of terabytes of scalable capacity for both urban and rural businesses and communities in NEOM by 2030.