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Looks unlikely that Starlink will get a license by Elon Musk’s visit next week

Elon Musk is on a two-day visit to India on April 21 and 22 and is to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It is unlikely that as speculated, his company Starlink, will get the global mobile personal communication (GMPCS) licence by then.

Starlink set up a wholly-owned unit in India in 2021 and has been waiting for government approvals to launch its services. The company had applied for the license in November 2022. The license application is under process, and the government is examining the security aspects. The FDI and financial aspects are now in sync with the requirements and conditions, as the ownership declaration has been received from Starlink. Due diligence is currently on, and security aspects are being looked into. The company’s application for GMPCS has to be cleared by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The spoke in the wheel is the decision by the authorities on the method of allocation of spectrum. The two telcos that have already received the GMPCS license are not in agreement. While Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance-SES has been pushing for an auction, Sunil Mittal’s One Web is in favor of an administrative allocation. Starlink and the Tatas are also in favor of an administered price allocation. The new Telecommunications Act, which is cleared by the Parliament mandates the administrative allocation of spectrum.

The DoT is planning to ask the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for its recommendations and will take a final call on the matter once TRAI sends in its recommendation, which takes about three months.

It may be recalled that Starlink which offers satellite broadband services through a B2C model, connecting the satellite to home service in the US had taken pre-bookings from customers in India in November 2021 even before getting a license. After a DoT warning, they returned the deposits to the customers in January 2022.

According to an EY-ISpA report, India’s space economy is projected to reach USD 13 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 6 percent.

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