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Neom JV seals $200m satellite network deal with OneWeb

RIYADH, October 26, 2021

Neom Tech & Digital Holding Company, the first holding company to be established as a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia's futuristic $500-billion new city Neom, has signed a $200 million joint venture agreement with OneWeb, the global communications network powered from space, to bring high-speed satellite connectivity to Neom, Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East and neighboring 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 the Saudi city’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 stated.
 
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.
 
As per the JV deal, Neom Tech & Digital Hold Company 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 Hold 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.
 
Neom Tech & Digital Hold Company CEO Joseph Bradley and Neil Masterson, CEO, OneWeb, formalised the agreement at a ceremony held on the sidelines of the kingdom’s flagship Future Investment Initiative event in the presence of Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Investment, Abdullah Alswaha, Minister for Communications & Information Technology.
 
Lord Gerry Grimstone, Minister for Investment at Department for International Trade and Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK; also took part along with Nadhmi Al Nasr, CEO, Neom and Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman, OneWeb.
 
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," he stated.
 
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.”
 
Grimstone pointed out that the JV has brought 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 home and driving investment into the UK space sector.
 
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."
 
Currently, OneWeb uses the latest security protection employed in advanced mobile networks. Neom Tech & Digital Hold Co. will be trialing technologies to provide further security protection as well as testing new, more robust and resistant positioning and navigation solutions.
 
On the strategic deal, Mittal said "This 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."
 
Masterson pointed out that the deal represents OneWeb’s global vision to help bridge the digital divide through its innovative LEO satellite network. 
 
By working with Neom Tech & Digital Hold Company, 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 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.-TradeArabia News Service



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