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OneWeb, Jio Satellite, Starlink services rollout seems possible only by 2025

Satellite internet service companies, including Bharti-owned Eutelsat OneWeb and Jio Satellite, may have to wait until 2025 to roll out their services as spectrum allocation rules are expected to take time. Elon Musk owned Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper are also in the fray to offer satcom services.

The department of telecommunications (DoT) is expected to send the pricing framework for spectrum to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) only after the rules on satellite spectrum allocation under the telecom law are finalised, officials said.

After DoT’s reference, TRAi will start consultations with stakeholders, which will take at least six months. As such, recommendations are not expected before the end of the year.

“TRAI will start working on the satellite spectrum allocation terms once it gets clarity on the rules,” a DoT official said. Besides pricing, DoT is discussing the revenue share licence fee and spectrum usage charge, which satellite service providers should pay.

One issue which needs to be resolved is whether satellite services should be treated on a par with the very small aperture terminal (VSAT) service licence, officials said. VSAT is a satellite communication technology which is useful to provide data connectivity to remote and inaccessible locations where there is limited or no terrestrial connectivity. Currently, ATMs use VSAT services. “There are many complex issues regarding the licencing framework for satellite services, pricing, etc. We are not in a hurry to allocate the spectrum,” another DoT official said.

Satellite internet services are best suited for far-flung areas, but to make them affordable, companies may need some form of government subsidy. The focus on internet broadband services, in areas where telecom services are difficult to provide, also reduces the target market size of the nascent industry.

Due to these factors, the government decided to administratively allocate spectrum for such services, as opposed to auctions. For this, satellite services were placed under Schedule 1, which so far figured only government and security-related services.

Last year, Jio demonstrated India’s first satellite-based gigabit internet service, JioSpaceFiber, which can potentially be used to provide high-speed internet services in inaccessible areas in the country. The company has connected four remote locations with JioSpaceFiber — Gir in Gujarat, Korba in Chattisgarh, Nabarangpur in Odisha, and Jorhat in Assam — using the spectrum on trial.

OneWeb’s earth station gateways in Mehsana, Gujarat and one near Chennai are ready for services. Besides the global mobile personal communications by satellite services (GMPCS) licence, Eutelsat OneWeb is the only satcom player that has all the mandatory authorisations including that from space industry regulator, IN-SPACe.

According to a joint report by ISpA and Deloitte, the market potential of broadband connectivity through satellite in the rural area, is expected to be $263 million over the next five years. Financial Express

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