U.S. Startup Denies Offering Russia Stake in Satellite Project

American tech startup OneWeb, which is planning a project to create a worldwide broadband internet network using satellites, said on Friday that it had not offered the Russian government a stake in the project, Reuters reported.

Sources have told the news agency that OneWeb had offered to sell a 12.5 percent stake to Russia, a move reportedly planned to allay Moscow’s concerns about the company’s satellite network plan.

Russia’s Federal Security Service said in October it was against OneWeb’s project to bring internet access to remote parts of the country because the agency said it could be used to gather intelligence and damage national security.

“OneWeb has not offered to sell any stake in OneWeb to the Russian Government,” the startup said on its website.

“OneWeb is in the process of restructuring its existing commercial joint venture with its Russian partner, Gonets, to comply with certain regulatory requirements in Russia. The joint venture is solely for the commercialization of OneWeb’s satellite broadband services to customers in Russia. The joint venture will not have access to OneWeb’s satellite technology or related know-how. The restructuring will result in Gonets owning a majority of the joint venture,” the company said.

Russia’s state news agency TASS cited Russia’s communications minister as saying the government has not discussed such a deal with OneWeb.

The Virginia-based startup plans to create a network of 900 satellites, most of which it wants to send into orbit via 21 Russian Soyuz launch vehicles from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Guiana Space Centre. The launch of the first satellite is planned to take place before February 2019.