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Vi opposes satellite players demand for separate earth station licenses

Vodafone Idea has opposed satellite players’ demand for delinking license of satellite earth stations from service licenses.

Responding to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) consultation paper, the third-largest telco argued that there is no need to delink the unified license and provide a separate licensing framework to satellite providers to set up earth stations. At present, service providers hold the license to set up earth stations under the unified licensing framework. In opposition to this, satellite players — especially those looking to provide high-speed internet — are asking for a separate license regime for satellite earth stations.

Exponential growth
Earth stations are essentially a telecommunications port on the ground to connect the satellite communication network in space with the terrestrial network on earth.

At present, only service providers who set up the terrestrial network to deliver satellite communication services to end-users are allowed to set up earth stations. These regulations worked fine in the past since only a few geostationary satellites in the sky were being used for satellite communication services, requiring limited earth stations.

However, with new innovations in the satcom space, major satellite players — especially new high-speed internet entrants into the space — are asking for the delinking of gateway licenses from service providers.

The high-speed broadband and low earth orbit revolution is going to exponentially increase the number of satellites in the sky and thus, the number of earth stations on the ground. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) players such as Starlink, Telesat and OneWeb argue that delinking of licenses will be the best way to deploy earth stations in a cost-effective way.

“Both service licensees, as well as satellite providers, should be permitted to provide gateways to provide satellite-based services in India. To ensure a competitive market, the ability to establish gateways should be made available to both subsidiaries of satellite operators and entities that operate in tie in with satellite operators,” said Starlink.

Dense infra needed
“….it is increasingly important for LEO satellite operators to establish more dense ground infrastructures. OneWeb needs a total of 40+ gateway across the globe to provide full global coverage. It operates a wholesale business model, where it does not intend to provide service to end consumers directly, but sell capacity to telecom service providers. Decoupling licensing of the gateway will be allowing the possibility for a satellite operator to provide service to multiple service providers,” said OneWeb.

Service providers — including Hughes, Nelco, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio — support this demand. Vodafone Idea, however, remains opposed to this demand.

Maintain supremacy
Vodafone Idea said, “There is no need to have a separate service license for establishing satellite earth station gateway in India for the purpose of providing satellite-based resources to service licensees. If required, a registration based framework should be devised for them to provide infrastructure service to licensed service providers on the lines similar to existing IP-I registration.”

LEOs and telcos — especially Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio — have been in a regulatory battle as telcos seek to protect their supremacy over the high-speed communications space.
While Jio supports the need for separate licensing, it reiterated that satellite spectrum to provide high-speed internet services needs to be auctioned and not allocated to level the playing field between telcos and LEOs. The Hindu BusinessLine

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