Neom Tech & Digital Holding Company and, One Web, backed by Indian telecommunications tycoon Sunil Mittal, signed a $200 million joint venture agreement to deliver high-speed satellite connectivity to the Saudi megacity of Neom, the wider Middle East, and neighbouring East African nations.
The agreement “is a testament to Saudi Arabia’s promising future in the space technology sectors ... [and] will contribute to economic growth and accelerate digital and communications knowledge transfer to the kingdom", Saudi Arabia's Minister of Investment Khalid Al Falih said on Tuesday during the Future Investment Initiative summit being held in Riyadh.
Neom Tech & Digital Holding, the primary holding firm to be established as a subsidiary of Neom, and the new entity will have exclusive rights to distribute OneWeb services in its target regions for seven years from the initiation of the low earth orbit (LEO) satellite network, which is expected to commence in 2023.
Neom Tech & Digital Holding 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.
The launch of OneWeb's satellite network will "transform businesses and rural communities in the region where access to fibre-like internet was previously unimaginable", according to the statement.
The agreement also includes a long-term strategic partnership regarding research and development of future connectivity systems.
"We still have nine years to complete our journey and we are confident that we will meet all requirements so that Neom will be in the location that the Crown Prince [Mohammed bin Salman], chairman of the board of directors, wanted it to be an unprecedented event in the history of mankind," said Nazim Al Nasr, chief executive of the Neom project.