The middle east nation is building up the Neom region in the northwest part of the country as a living lab that will focus on the development of the latest technologies.
Saudi Arabia’s Neom Tech & Digital Holding Company has signed a $200m joint venture agreement with OneWeb to provide high-speed satellite connectivity to Neom, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and neighbouring East African countries.
The partnership will see the deployment of OneWebs Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, which will not only provide the connectivity to enable Neoms ecosystem of cognitive technologies but also transform businesses and rural communities in the region where access to fibre-like internet was previously unimaginable. The agreement also includes a long-term strategic partnership regarding the research and development of future connectivity systems.
It also builds on the relationship between OneWeb and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA). Established in 2017, they are focused on unlocking Saudi Arabias nascent orbital space technology sector for private investors.
Neom Tech & Digital Holding and OneWeb, the LEO operator with 358 satellites and the only licensed operator in Saudi Arabia, expect to complete ground infrastructure in 2022.
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.
Joseph Bradley, CEO of Neom Tech & Digital Hold Co., and Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, formalised the agreement at a signing ceremony at the Kingdoms flagship Future Investment Initiative event.
Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Investment, Saudi Arabia said: It is a great pleasure to witness the signing of the joint venture between Neom and OneWeb, which is a testament to Saudi Arabias promising future in the space technology sectors. Todays 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.
Abdullah Alswaha, Minister for Communications & Information Technology, Saudi Arabia 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.
Lord Gerry Grimstone, Minister for Investment at Department for International Trade and Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK stated: This joint venture brings together two emerging space and digital technology champions to deliver connectivity for the Middle East. It demonstrates that the UK Governments 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 commented: We aim to connect 100% of Neoms 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.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman, OneWeb, remarked: 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 OneWebs services will reach unconnected or poorly connected regions through cooperation with international governments and local partners.
Masterson noted: This agreement represents OneWebs global vision to help bridge the digital divide through our innovative LEO satellite network. By working with Neom Tech & Digital Hold Co., OneWeb will support the ambitions of Neom, connecting businesses and communities and supporting the resilience of connectivity systems across the wider region.
Currently, OneWeb uses the latest security protection employed in advanced mobile networks. Neom Tech & Digital Hold Co. will be trialling 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.