A joint venture between Bharti Airtel and Hughes Network Systems to deliver satellite internet services in India was approved by local authorities, clearing it to join an increasingly competitive rural broadband segment.

The venture was announced in May 2019. It will operate as Hughes Communications India and combines the very small aperture terminal (VSAT) businesses of both companies.

In a statement, president and MD of Hughes Communications India Partho Banerjee noted combining their capabilities means “the partnership will bring synergies to the forefront, including multi-orbit solutions, for the benefit of customers across the length and breadth of India”.

Ajay Chitkara, director and CEO of Airtel Business, added the company is focused on supporting and accelerating the digital transformation of customers through an integrated portfolio. “With the combined capabilities of Airtel and Hughes, customers will get access to next generation satellite connectivity backed by proven enterprise-grade security and service support.”

The venture also will distribute Bharti-backed OneWeb’s planned satellite broadband service in India, The Economic Times stated.

Hughes Communications India stated it provides service to Airtel VSAT customers using a combined base of more than 200,000 terminals.

Rival Starlink was reportedly forced to refund deposits to 5,000 customers and stop taking new orders for its satellite service until it receives an operating licence.