OneWeb and NEOM Tech & Digital Holding Company have signed a $200 million (SAR 750 million) joint venture agreement to bring high-speed satellite connectivity to NEOM, Saudi Arabia, the wider Middle East, and neighboring East African countries.
H.E. 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. Today’s agreement will contribute to economic growth and accelerate digital and communications knowledge transfer to the Kingdom through the transformative NEOM vision. As the Ministry of Investment works to implement the National Investment Strategy recently launched by HRH the Crown Prince, we will continue to provide support to this and other differentiated initiatives and projects and look forward to seeing it come to fruition in the near future.”
H.E. Al Swaha said: “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.”
UK Investment Minister Gerry Grimstone said: “This joint venture brings together two emerging space and digital technology champions to deliver connectivity for the Middle East. It demonstrates that the UK Government’s investment in OneWeb continues to be a catalyst for international collaboration, while securing jobs at homeand driving investment into the UK space sector.”
Mr Bradley said: “We aim to connect 100% 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.”
Mr Mittal said – “This agreement will help realize our joint vision of boosting connectivity in Saudi Arabia, Middle-East and East Africa. It exemplifies the model through which OneWeb’s services will reach unconnected or poorly connected regions – through cooperation with international governments and local partners.”
Mr 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 & DigitalHold Co., OneWeb will support the ambitions of NEOM, connecting businesses and communities and supporting the resilience of connectivity systems across the wider region.”
The deployment of OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation as part of the cooperation would not only enable NEOM’s ecosystem of cognitive technologies, but will also revolutionise companies and rural communities in the region where access to fiber-like internet was previously inconceivable. A long-term strategic cooperation for research and development of future connectivity technologies is also included in the deal.
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, they are 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 Hold Co.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 & DigitalHold Co.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 Hold Co., and Neil Masterson, OneWeb, formalized the agreement at a signing ceremony at the Kingdom’s flagship Future Investment Initiative event. Also in attendance were: His Excellency Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Investment, Saudi Arabia; His Excellency Abdullah Alswaha, Minister for Communications & Information Technology, Saudi Arabia; Lord Gerry Grimstone, Minister for Investment at Department for International Trade and Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy , UK; Nadhmi Al Nasr, CEO, NEOM; and Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman, OneWeb.
Currently, OneWeb uses the latest security protection employed in advanced mobile networks. NEOM Tech & DigitalHold Co.will be trialing technologies to provide further security protection as well as testing new, more robust and resistant positioning and navigation solutions.
The partnership supports NEOM Tech & Digital Hold Co.’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.