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UK investment in OneWeb satellite firm geopolitical, Cabinet minister says

The U.K. governments decision to invest in bankrupt satellite operator OneWeb is as much about competing globally with other space powers as it is boosting broadband coverage, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said Thursday.

Last week, Downing Street confirmed plans to participate in a $500 million deal to rescue OneWeb. During a parliamentary committee hearing Thursday, Sharma said the plan is not only to use the constellation to amp up broadband provision in the U.K., and to offer services for aviation and shipping, but also about geopolitical positioning.

“The U.K. has an ambition to be a world leader in the space sector,” Sharma told the committee. “I think this [investment] presents … strategic geopolitical opportunities for the U.K. as well.”

However, despite reports, Sharma said there are no plans to use OneWebs existing constellation of 74 low-orbit satellites as part of plans to build its own navigation system to rival the EUs Galileo network.

Due to Brexit, the U.K. will lose access to the military-grade, encrypted part of the Galileo navigation system. However, converting OneWebs fleet would involve significant further investment.

“That wasnt the rationale for this particular investment but of course we are exploring how OneWeb may be able to contribute to resilience in the future,” Sharma said.

The European Commission is also planning to boost its own satellite communication provision, but senior officials passed on the troubled operator chosen by the U.K.

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