Starlink is the third company to apply for the GMPCS licence. Airtel-backed OneWeb and Jio’s satellite arm, Jio Space Technology, have also applied
The company will require several other licences and permissions from many Indian authorities before it can start operating in the country
The competition within India’s $13 Bn space internet market is heating up as Starlink gears for its launch in the country
SpaceX, the parent company of Starlink, has reportedly applied for a licence with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to bring satellite-based broadband to India.
The Elon Musk-owned company applied for the Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) licence with the DoT last week, ET reported citing DoT officials.
Incidentally, Starlink is the third company to apply for the GMPCS licence. Airtel-backed OneWeb and Jio’s satellite arm, Jio Space Technology, have also applied for the same.
However, a GMPCS licence is only one of the several licences and permissions that Starlink needs before it can start operations in India. First, Starlink needs to obtain the approval of the Department of Space and receive spectrum for delivering satellite broadband.
Since the company also needs ground-based satellite gateways in India, it needs to receive approval from the Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) to establish them.
The competition within India’s space internet segment is heating up as Starlink gears for its launch in the country, with players including Airtel, Reliance, Amazon and others also looking at a potentially $13 Bn market by 2025, per an EY-ISpA report.
Starlink has the largest space broadband constellation in the world, with 3,451 satellites being launched and slightly over 2,700 being operational. The company has plans to launch as many as 12,000 satellites eventually to provide global coverage.
While Airtel-backed OneWeb has the most-developed satellite constellation in terms of percentage deployed and coverage, an India launch has been delayed by regulatory requirements within the country.
That allowed other companies to catch up and Jio did just that. The Akash Ambani-led telco teamed up with SES, a global satellite broadband provider, to launch Jio Space Technology to build satellite internet capabilities.
Starlink’s Previous Attempt In India
Starlink had plans to launch its services in India last year and it started taking pre-bookings around March 2021. The company had asked India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to approve the use of satellites to deliver broadband services in India before that.
However, in November 2021, DoT intervened by stating that Starlink needs to get all the requisite licences to operate in India and ordered it to refund the pre-booking amount of $99 (INR 7,500 per last year’s exchange rates) to Indian users. By December 1, 2021, Starlink ceased the pre-bookings, refunding all the users.
Starlink has recently been in news for its use in the war-torn Ukraine, where the defenders are using the much-needed connectivity against the invaders. Recently, the company was at the centre of a controversy when Musk tweeted that SpaceX couldn’t fund Starlink operations indefinitely, asking the US government for funding.
Currently, there are 25,300 terminals in Ukraine, with only 10,630 of them paying for the service, according to Musk.