After a prolonged period of addressing security concerns, Elon Musk‘s satellite venture, Starlink, is on the verge of securing approval from India‘s telecom ministry. This approval will pave the way for Starlink to offer its satellite services within the country.
Approval Meeting on the Horizon:
Scheduled for later this month, a high-level meeting is anticipated to deliberate on Starlink‘s application for a Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) services license. While prospects for approval appear favorable, there’s still the possibility of last-minute issues causing potential delays.
Navigating the Regulatory Landscape:
Even after obtaining the GMPCS license, Starlink will be required to secure further approvals from various government departments and the Department of Space. Only then can the company officially commence operations and start accepting orders.
Competition in the Satellite Broadband Arena:
Currently, GMPCS licenses have been granted to other players like OneWeb, which is backed by Sunil Mittal, and Jio, in partnership with Luxembourg-based SES and spearheaded by Mukesh Ambani. Moreover, Jeff Bezos‘ ‘Project Kuiper’ is poised to enter the Indian satellite services market, intensifying competition.
Reliance Jio’s Dominance:
For Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Jio, thwarting foreign competition in the satellite broadband sector would be another feather in its cap. Reliance Jio already boasts a commanding presence with 439 million telecom users, making it the market leader, in addition to 8 million wired broadband connections, translating to a 25% market share.
Debate Over Spectrum Auction:
Starlink contends that India should forego spectrum auctions and instead grant licenses, aligning with a global trend. The company argues that spectrum is a shared natural resource, and auctions could impose geographical constraints, ultimately raising costs. These views were conveyed in publicized letters from the company to the Government in June.
Contrarily, Reliance advocates for a spectrum auction, asserting that foreign satellite service providers can offer voice and data services, competing on equal footing with traditional telecom companies. According to Reliance, an auction is imperative to level the playing field.
Challenges Confronted by Starlink:
Starlink, a subsidiary of Elon Musk‘s SpaceX aerospace firm, encountered initial challenges upon its entry into the Indian market in 2021. The telecom ministry reprimanded the company for accepting advance payments from subscribers prior to obtaining a license. At that juncture, Starlink had already amassed over 5,000 pre-orders for its devices in India, each involving a $99 payment. In compliance with government directives, the company initiated the refund process for those who had made payments.
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