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Jio’s entry into satcom not an issue for OneWeb: Sunil Mittal

Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal said Reliance Jio’s entry into satellite communications (satcom) in India would not make competition tougher for OneWeb, the satcom company part-owned by the Bharti group, as the market was large to accommodate multiple operators.

Mittal warned that no satcom company would participate if the spectrum meant for the segment was auctioned. That would mean India facing the risk of excluding broadband-from-space as a connectivity option in the country, he cautioned.

Cash-strapped telecom operator Vodafone Idea is still not out of the woods and needs “serious investments” for stability, Mittal said on Wednesday, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. But the government’s package for the sector, which he termed as a “regulatory healing touch”, will bring some respite to Vodafone Idea even as it is also taking the telecom industry on the road to recovery, Mittal said.

‘Satcom won’t disrupt telecom’
Satcom services won’t disrupt the telecom industry, as the two are not in competition, said Mittal, who leads Bharti Airtel, the country’s second largest telecom operator.

When asked if Bharti Airtel would raise more funds via equity, like the investment by US tech major Google in the company, Mittal said: “There’s nothing that is going on at the moment.”

Satcom in India
In his first comments on Jio’s entry into satcom, Mittal said that while the Mukesh Ambani-led company would just be distributing bandwidth (generated by Luxembourg-based partner SES) in India, OneWeb would be doing both production and distribution of bandwidth.

OneWeb is a low-earth orbit satellite operator which has Bharti Global and the UK government as the major shareholders. It plans to start offering Internet-from-space services in India in mid-2022.

Jio Space Technology, the joint venture between Jio Platforms and SES to deliver broadband services in India leveraging satellite technology, has yet to laid out plans for starting services in India. “India is a large country. OneWeb is a global network. India is a small portion of that in terms of bandwidth. We will have no problems selling the Indian bandwidth, which is very small,” he said, adding that only 2% of OneWeb’s total capacity would fall in India.

Mittal said there was “zero chance” of disruption in the telecom market due to satcom, as the service was only for areas devoid of mobile networks, such as deserts, jungles, the Himalayas, water and for in-flight services. “We are not competing with GSM operators … I have my own GSM operator,” he said.

He opposed Jio’s call to auction spectrum needed for satellite services, saying nowhere in the world was it auctioned. “This is a shared spectrum. Everybody will use the same spectrum … why would India want to exclude the satellite option in the country (by auctioning it)? So, if there will be an auction, obviously no satellite operator will be participating,” Mittal said. UR ALL NEWS

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