A high-level meeting scheduled for later this month is expected to address Starlink's proposal for a GMPCS services licence
Starlink will join OneWeb and Jio’s joint venture with Luxembourg-based SES as a company having received the GMPCS licence
India is facing a debate on whether or not an auction should be held to sell off airwaves required to operate satellite internet services
After a hiatus of two years, Elon Musk’s Starlink is on the verge of making a return to India, as it nears securing government authorisation to provide its satellite internet services in the nation.
According to a TOI report, a high-level meeting scheduled for later this month is expected to address Starlink’s proposal for a global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCS) licence issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
Starlink is likely to receive approval, but chances are still there that any last-minute issues might delay approval.
The development comes nearly a year after the satellite internet company applied for a licence in October 2022.
Once Starlink secures the GMPCS license, it will need additional approvals from various government departments, including the Department of Space (DoS), before it can officially accept orders and move forward with its operations.
Starlink will join OneWeb and Jio’s joint venture with Luxembourg-based SES as a company having received the GMPCS licence in India. Jeff Bezos’ Project Kuiper is also likely to enter the Indian market shortly, per media reports.
However, India is also facing a fierce debate on whether or not an auction should be held to sell off airwaves required to operate satellite-based internet services in the country.
While Jio has been batting for an auction, calling for a ‘level playing field’ and citing the possibility of satcom companies offering voice and data services, others disagree. Starlink and OneWeb, on the other hand, are against an auction, calling for spectrum allocation and following the global trend. According to company letters made public by the Indian government in June, Starlink reckons an auction may impose geographical restrictions that will raise costs.
Starlink, a division of SpaceX, faced challenges when it entered the Indian market in 2021. The Ministry of Telecommunications reprimanded the company for commencing operations and accepting pre-orders without obtaining a licence.
For context, Starlink had received 5,000 pre-orders, at around $99 per order (INR 7,500 at the time) before the government stepped in and ordered the company to seek a licence and fully refund the pre-orders.
The Musk-led company has the largest satellite constellation deployed in the world. The company, which offers internet access across 56 countries, has put more than 4,500 satellites in Low Earth Orbit, 550 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.