SpaceX applies for a license for broadband from space service in India

  • Elon Musk-led SpaceX has applied for a license to provide broadband services in India under its Starlink brand. 
  • A tough challenge awaits SpaceX to establish its presence in the market even after getting its license. 
  • So far Bharti Group-backed OneWeb and Reliance Jio Infocomm’s satellite arm have got approved licenses from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) 

Elon Musk-led American space and telecommunications company SpaceX has applied to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in India to offer broadband from space services for the country.

Overview of the SpaceX proposal 

After much speculation regarding the matter of SpaceX applying for a global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCS) license, on October 18th official documents confirming the same were released.

SpaceX has applied for the GMPCS license to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in India. If permitted, this will enable the company to provide broadband from space services to the citizens of the country under its Starlink brand.

SpaceX had earlier applied for an experimental license but withdrew it later. They have now applied for a permanent GMPCS license. With this step, the company joins the leagues of three other telecom companies that secured this license namely- Bharti Group-backed OneWeb and Reliance Jio Infocomm’s satellite arm.

Challenges ahead 

Although SpaceX has applied for the license it doesn’t mean that it can immediately start providing services to Indian consumers just yet.

After getting the license, the company needs to get approval from the Department of Space to launch broadband from space service and after that get spectrum allocated for offering services as well.

Also, SpaceX will need to establish in-country earth stations also known as satellite gateways to deploy the required satellite bandwidth capacity in India.

All such clearances will have to come from the Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), which acts as the central regulatory body mandated to attract private capital in the space sector.

Moreover, SpaceX already hit a bump in the road when they were forced to return pre-booking money to people in the country. The company had started taking pre-booking for their services before obtaining the appropriate clearance and henceforth received a warning from DoT which told the company to seek regulatory approvals first before taking any pre-orders.

India’s turn to space broadband

It is estimated that by the year 2025 the space broadband industry in India will be worth almost $13 billion.

The current situation is such that only two telecom giants have successfully obtained their respective GMPCS license and their teams are working towards making this dream come true. So although progress is on the slower side, the future looks very different.

Competition is intensifying as days go by. Several companies are looking to explore broadband from space services and follow in the footsteps of One Web, Reliance and Spacex.

Nelco by Tata Group along with Canada-based Telesat is also exploring the launch of broadband from space services in India. Elon Musk’s biggest competitor Jeff Bezos is also looking to lead his company Amazon into these services as well.

According to official statistics, 75 percent of India, particularly the rural areas, lack proper Internet facilities. However, experts are still confident about the launch of space broadband services.

An issue still under debate is whether said satellite broadband services are likely to be launched in India only once there is clarity over the new space communications policy, including the mode of spectrum allocation for satellite communications.

While DoT is awaiting the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on the matter, most stalwarts believe that such allocation must be done on administrative grounds and not by the method of auctions. Here spokespersons for companies like Jio and Vodafone have however said that auctions are better.

Disclaimer: This information is covered based on the latest research and development available. However, it may not fully reflect all current aspects of the subject matter.

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