Reliance’s Jio Platforms clears hurdle in bid to launch satellite internet in India

A joint venture between Reliance Industries’ Jio Platforms and Luxembourg-based SES to provide gigabit fiber internet has received approval from the Indian space regulator to operate satellites, according to a government executive.

Orbit Connect India, the venture targeting satellite-based high-speed internet, has been granted three approvals. Issued in April and June by the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), these approvals allow Orbit Connect to operate satellites over India. However, additional permissions from the Department of Telecommunications are required to start operations.

Inmarsat, another company aiming to offer high-speed satellite internet, has also received approval to operate satellites over India, as confirmed by IN-SPACe chairman Pawan Goenka. Elon Musk’s Starlink and Amazon.com’s Kuiper have also applied for permissions. OneWeb, backed by Bharti Enterprises and Eutelsat, secured all necessary approvals late last year.

India’s satellite broadband market is projected to grow at an annual rate of 36%, reaching $1.9 billion by 2030, according to Deloitte. Globally, the race to connect rural areas via space-based internet is intensifying. Amazon announced a $10 billion investment in Kuiper in 2019, the same year SpaceX began deploying operational Starlink satellites. Recently, Sri Lanka granted preliminary approval to Starlink for internet services.

Goenka emphasized that increased competition in India’s satellite internet sector would benefit consumers by driving innovation and reducing prices, similar to trends seen in the automotive industry. IN-SPACe plans to authorize private companies to operate ground stations, enabling satellite operators to download data over India.

Prime Minister Modi’s government, which has secured a third term, is actively promoting the development of India’s space industry. This year, it allowed 100% foreign direct investment in the manufacturing of satellite components and systems without prior approval, leading to a significant increase in investor interest. “Last year, investments in private companies ranged from $2 million to $7 million. This year, they are discussing amounts between $20 million and $30 million,” Goenka said. “The proof of concept has been established.”

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