The space regulatory body of the South Asian country has granted Starlink Competitor OneWeb in India, the local subsidiary of low-Earth orbit operator Eutelsat OneWeb, the requisite authorization to commence operations of its commercial satellite broadband services.
In advance of SpaceX’s Starlink and Reliance’s JioSpaceFiber, the company announced on Tuesday that it is the first organization to receive authorization from the nodal agency to launch its satellite broadband services in the world’s second-largest internet user market.
However, spectrum allocation by the Indian government, which has not yet occurred, is a prerequisite for the launch.
The Indian Ministry of Telecommunications, JioSpaceFiber, and OneWeb were granted licenses earlier this month to offer broadband services via satellite connectivity within the nation. In principle, OneWeb has been granted authorization to establish two gateways in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
The purpose of these gateways is to supply clients throughout India with high-speed, low-latency internet connectivity once the company’s services become operational.
A senior executive at JP Morgan’s summit last month stated that Bharti Airtel, the second largest wireless network provider in India and current owner of more than a fifth of OneWeb, is relying on satellite-beamed internet to reduce data costs in the country.
By January 24, OneWeb is anticipated to have a fully operational low-earth orbit (LEO) constellation and provide global coverage, including mountains and coastlines. Vice chairman of Bharti Enterprises Akhil Gupta stated that he believes satellites will supplement terrestrial connections and that, by the middle of the next decade, every smartphone will be equipped with an integrated satellite connection, allowing operators to reduce the cost per gigabyte.
The Indian space regulator’s approval to introduce Eutelsat OneWeb’s commercial satellite broadband services in India is met with satisfaction, according to a prepared statement by Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of the Bharti Group and vice president (co-chair) of the board of directors at Eutelsat Group.
“Eutelsat OneWeb is prepared to commence commercial service provisioning immediately following receipt of the final spectrum authorization.”
The most recent development occurs after OneWeb and Eutelsat Communications finalized their $3.4 billion all-share agreement, which was announced in July of last year.
Reliance, similar to Eutelsat OneWeb, is enthusiastic about extending its satellite-based broadband services to the most populous nation on the planet.
Last month, the organization showcased its offerings and asserted that they were accessible to a wide audience “at exceedingly reasonable prices” in order to contend with the competition. Despite this, Jio and OneWeb have refrained from disclosing the precise pricing information for their broadband internet services via satellite.
Additionally competing to be the first to offer satellite broadband services in India is SpaceX’s Starlink. Late in 2021, the organization incorporated its domestic operation in India and recruited a senior executive for the region. Nevertheless, the license to conduct business in the South Asian market was not granted to it.
Amazon, similarly, is considering the substantial internet user base in India as a means to extend its Project Kuiper. As reported by TechCrunch, the organization reportedly hired a local executive in January to assist in the formulation of local rollout strategies and partake in discussions.
Satellite companies are eagerly awaiting the government’s approval before launching broadband services via satellite in the nation. TechCrunch was informed by sources with knowledge of the situation that telcos are requesting spectrum auctions, whereas satellite broadband providers are requesting administrative allocations to launch their services in the country.
The space competition of India
The action taken by the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) further contributes to the escalating competition within the Asian space sector. According to a report published this month by Macquarie analysts, China has conducted 34% of all orbital launches over the last five years. China is currently ranked second only to the United States in space endeavors.
Throughout history, the government has exerted the most influence over India’s space industry through its national space agency, ISRO. The involvement of private enterprises as suppliers and vendors in government-led space initiatives has been instrumental. In comparison to the space budgets of the United States, China, and Japan, India’s allocation of around $2 billion is relatively modest. As a consequence, India is estimated to possess a 2% market share in the global space economy, as reported by Macquarie.
In April 2023, in an effort to increase the Indian space industry’s global footprint and accelerate its development, the Indian government unveiled the Indian Space Policy. Promoting the participation of the private sector in various space-related endeavors—such as the design, operation, and development of infrastructure for space objects—is the objective of this strategic policy. The policy delineates the responsibilities of four pivotal entities:
- The responsibility of promoting and authorizing space activities within India falls to InSPACe.
- The Department of Space (DOS) functions as the coordinating agency for the execution of the policy.
- The responsibility of commercializing space technologies and platforms developed using public infrastructure falls on New Space India Limited (NSIL).
- At this time, the research and development of novel space technologies and applications will be the primary focus of ISRO.
The recent efforts of New Delhi, which include the development of its own global navigation satellite system NavIC, as well as ISRO’s progress, have convinced investors that there is potential in supporting domestic companies.
Macquarie wrote, “Although India’s domestic space industry is still in its infancy, we believe opportunities already exist in satellite applications.” “The rapidly expanding market for digital maps that makes extensive use of satellite positioning technology.”