While Elon Musk battles for a satellite broadband license, India’s richest billionaires are quickly catching up

  • Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio has formed a joint venture with the Luxembourg-based SES.
  • Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Mittal have found partners to launch their satellite broadband services.
  • Elon Musk’s Starlink company has not secured a license to operate in the second-largest telecom market in the world.  

Reliance Jio, owned by Ambani, has formed a joint venture with the SES. SES is satellite-based content and connectivity solution provider from Luxembourg. In January 2022, Airtel has announced a joint venture with Hughes Communications to provide satellite-based broadband services in the country.

Jio Platforms will own 51% of the joint venture, while SES, based in Luxembourg, will own 49%. SES operates the world’s only multi-orbit constellation of satellites with a unique combination of global coverage and high performance, including the commercially proven, low-latency medium Earth orbit O3b system.

This joint venture will catalyze linking India and the region’s unconnected areas to a broad spectrum of digital services, including remote health, government services, and distant learning options.

Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Mittal are set to launch their satellite broadband services as they found their respective partners. On another side, Elon Musk’s Starlink has been trying to enter the Indian Market. But he was asked to refund the pre-orders as the company has not secured a license to work in the second-largest telecom market in the world.

Nelco, an arm of the multi-billion Tata group, also talked with the Canadian firm Telesat’s Lightspeed brand to provide satellite broadband services in the country in upcoming years. Also, Amazon is looking to enter the satellite-based broadband services market in India. This project is part of the Kruiper Satellite Constellation.

Hence, these reports conclude that 4 large companies are currently planning to launch the satellite broadband, whereas Ambani and Sunil Mittal are already set to launch the satellite.

What is Satellite Broadband?

With the help of satellite orbiting, Satellite Broadband provides Internet services to people using a dish as the traditional broadband services need users to get wired connections from operators. In contrast, Satellite Broadband doesn’t require wired connections.

So, the advantage here is it becomes useful in those areas that don’t have the broadband infrastructure, like in rural areas, people don’t have the connection setups. So, Satellite Broadband will also help track vehicles creating and beeping alerts or alarms for natural disasters. Also, it will get help in remotely managing the power grids, to name a few use cases.

Countries like the US and UK, where Satellite Broadband Services are already available. Elon Musk’s Starlink is currently testing its services in 25 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, and France, among others. In addition to this, the UK also has other services such as OneWeb, which Airtel partially owns.

How will satellite broadband be worked in India?

Satellite broadband services could be the next battlefront in India, as telecom services and global players are banding up service launches through the year. This defines that people can look forward to the overabundance of Satellite broadband services to choose from by 2020 ends.

There will be Bharti Airtel, OneWeb, Hughes and if possible, then SpaceX’s Starlink. Once the regulatory issues are over, all of these are ready to use. Amazon is also believed to be considering satellite broadband services in India.

The satellite broadband services provided by Reliance Jio will be using the SES’s geostationary (GEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) fleet of satellites. These satellites are the SES-12, a GEO satellite, and the MEO constellation, also known as O3b mPOWER. So, Reliance Jio is all ready to provide the plans and services to customers as well as enterprises.

The SES-12 covers India and other South Asian countries. Airbus Defense and Space built this satellite, which was launched in 2018. The KU-beam can be used for DTH TV services and High Throughput Satellite (HTS) data connectivity services, which satellite broadband would require. The O3b mPOWER constellation will replace the O3b MEO system to provide increased coverage in the region. Jio claims that it will have up to 100 Gbps of capacity available.

India’s satellite broadband sector has enormous potential

The government simplified the certification procedure for satellite broadband network rollouts in India in November of last year, with a single platform clearance, including from the Departments of Space and Telecom.

According to a 2021 analysis from research company Deloitte and the industry association Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), India’s satellite communication user base will be between 1.5 million and 2 million by 2025. This will be heavily reliant on low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

The services of Reliance Jio, such as Jio Satellite Communications, Jio’s satellite unit, applied earlier this month for a global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCS) license to provide satellite-based broadband services in India. OneWeb, a subsidiary of Airtel, had also sought a GMPCS license in 2021.

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