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Starlink to secure license for satellite internet services in India next month

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Starlink to secure license for satellite internet services in India next month

American aerospace company SpaceX’s satellite internet division, Starlink, is finally poised to commence operations in India after a prolonged licensing process. The Elon Musk-led firm is expected to receive a crucial Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) license from the government next month as reported by Financial Express.

This license will provide the regulatory approval needed for Starlink to roll out high-speed satellite-based internet services in the country.

What is the GMPCS License?

The Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite Service (GMPCS) license is mandatory for companies seeking to establish satellite communication networks and provide internet connectivity via satellites in India. This license permits firms to use allocated spectrum frequencies to offer voice and data services within designated service areas in India through an satellite network.

GMPCS licenses are typically granted for a period of 20 years by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). With this long-term license, companies can build the required infrastructure and satellite networks to deliver satellite phone and internet services in India.

Why Did Starlink Require This License?

Starlink has built a global network small, low-orbit satellites to provide broadband internet services around the world. To start its services in any country, Starlink must secure regulatory approvals and spectrum allocation from the local government.

In India, a GMPCS license is the key approval required before Starlink could undertake any kind of satellite internet business and operations. The license application process required Starlink to provide extensive documentation about its planned satellite infrastructure, technology, frequency bands usage plans, and detailed proposals for internet service delivery across India.

Delay in Approval Process

Starlink had initiated the application process for securing a GMPCS license last October by submitting the initial documents to DoT(Department of Telecommunication) and other departments.

However, the processing and approvals got delayed due to additional information and clarifications sought by the authorities. Completing the regulatory requirements involved extensive scrutiny of Starlink’s satellite systems, proposed security infrastructure, and content regulation compliance.

Two years ago, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) instructed Starlink to cease accepting pre-bookings for its satellite internet services in India until it secured the necessary license. In adherence to the DoT’s directive, the company refunded the booking fees, totaling $99 (Rs 8,000), to more than 5,000 customers who had pre-booked the service.

According to officials, most of these regulatory hurdles are now cleared, putting Starlink on track to finally receive the license by next month.

Impact of Getting GMPCS Approval

The GMPCS license will make Starlink eligible for spectrum allocation by DoT, which the company needs to establish satellite internet services in India.

With the license approval, Starlink will become the third major player after Bharti’s OneWeb and Reliance Jio Satellite to be allowed to provide satellite-based internet services in India.

The company is also awaiting important clearance from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe).

SpaceX, the company operating Starlink, has met all regulatory requirements set by Indian authorities as reported by Financial Express .These requirements include providing detailed information about satellite locations, data transfer and storage methods, and the company’s strategy for delivering broadband services in India.

After completing these regulatory formalities, the Department of Space, Department of Telecommunications (DoT), and the Home Ministry will issue formal clearances. All necessary approvals are expected to be granted by the next month.

What to Expect from Starlink in India

Once licensed, Starlink will still need to coordinate with Indian authorities for final spectrum allocation before it can roll out services. The company is expected to leverage its global satellite network to offer high-speed broadband internet across India, especially targeting remote and rural areas.

Satellite internet services are best suited for remote and far-flung areas where traditional broadband infrastructure is lacking. To make these services more affordable, companies may require government subsidies.

In USA, The most common plan is the home internet package, called Standard. It costs $120 per month which is arroud Rs 9,900, with a one-time hardware cost of $599 (almost Rs 49,700).

With experienced players like Starlink entering this domain, India’s satellite internet market is gearing for disruption.

Companies are awaiting clarification on the method of spectrum allocation and foreign direct investment (FDI) norms, both of which are crucial before they can commence satellite internet services.

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