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Satellite operator Hughes has big plans for its operations in India after recently becoming the first company to be granted a license to provide in-flight connectivity and broadband services to Indian and foreign airlines in Indian airspace.

At last week’s SATELLITE 2019 show held in Washington DC, Hughes Network Systems announced that its majority-owned subsidiary, Hughes Communications India, and Bharti Airtel, an Indian telecommunications provider, will combine their respective Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) operations into a single venture. VSAT terminals work by accessing geosynchronous orbit satellites and relaying data to other terminals around the world.

Once approved by regulators, Hughes Communications India will control 67% and Airtel will hold the remaining 33% of the merged entity, which will have a 63% share of the Indian satellite communications market, according to The Economic Times.

In a statement announcing the deal, Hughes said that the “combined entity will bring greater scale, operational efficiencies and market reach to serve India with secure and reliable broadband satellite and hybrid solutions.”

The announcement comes after Hughes Communication India on March 1 became the first company to secure a Flight and Maritime Connectivity license from India’s Department of Telecommunications, granting it the right to provide in-flight connectivity and broadband services to Indian and foreign airlines in Indian airspace.

Speaking to APEX Media shortly after SATELLITE 2019, Royce Hernandez, a senior director at Hughes said the company is “working very closely with Hughes India to help use that license to expand reach for both domestic as well as aeronautical services” and that it’s something Hughes is “very excited about.”

“We’re moving very quickly.” – Royce Hernandez, Hughes

Asked about when in-flight Wi-Fi services powered by Hughes’ satellites could become available to passengers on commercial aircraft operating within India, Hernandez declined to offer a specific timeline. “We’re moving very quickly. I can say there has been tremendous interest as Hughes was one of the three announced partners for this license. We’re working very closely with multiple aeronautical and maritime customers to take advantage of that license and we do hope that we’ll have more announcements coming here quickly,” he said.