Former Devas executives to enter India’s satcom market with new venture

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The former CEO and co-founders of Devas Multimedia are re-entering the Indian satellite communications market through a start-up called Omnispace. Omnispace recently entered into a strategic partnership with Nelco, a Tata-backed satellite and VSAT communications company.

In line with their March 23 announcement, Omnispace and Nelco have entered into a strategic agreement to enable the use of direct-to-device 5G communications using Omnispace’s global NGSO (non-geostationary) satellite network on various segments of Marlet.

Omnispace is led by its CEO Ram Viswanathan – who was the co-founder and member of the board of directors of Devas Multimedia between 2005 and 2016. Besides him, Lawrence Babbio – former chairman of the board of directors of Devas – is another founding member of Omnispace.

Devas–Antrix conflict

Devas Multimedia is embroiled in a major controversy in India, in which the UPA-backed government terminated its contract with Antrix (the commercial arm of ISRO). In the contract, Antrix sought to provide Devas with exclusive rights to 70 MHz of the rare S-band space segment, for which Devas would pay Antrix $300 million over 12 years. The Union government dissolved the Devas-Antrix deal in 2011. In 2021, the National Company Law Tribunal liquidated Devas on the grounds that it had been fraudulently incorporated. This order was later upheld by the Supreme Court in January 2022. Allegations of collusion between Devas executives and Antrix officials also emerged in the NCLT’s pleadings.

Viswanathan was among eight people charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating and bribery in a CBI indictment filed in August 2016, in the case. It is unclear whether Viswanathan is still under investigation by the CBI. Devas and its shareholders have denied these claims and have filed several lawsuits against India in different jurisdictions.

In 2019, Omnispace received authorization to set up mobile networks in Mexico. On March 23, Omnispace announced a strategic partnership with Nelco to prospectively expand into India and South Asia.

When Activity area asked Nelco MD and CEO, PJ Nath if they knew about Viswanathan’s Devas connection, he declined to comment.

When contacted, an Omnispace spokesperson said, “Omnispace has no affiliation with Devas Multimedia. Omnispace was founded by seasoned US telecommunications and satellite industry executives from a cross section of highly successful global companies. Omnispace is developing a 5G-based system that leverages the global footprint of a constellation of non-geostationary satellites and enables interoperability with existing mobile networks to deliver ubiquitous connectivity to users and IoT devices,”

Published on

07 April 2022

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