Starlink Eyes Indian Skies – A Journey from Pre-orders to Licensing Deliberations

Starlink, backed by Elon Musk, is on the cusp of obtaining a permit to offer satellite-driven internet services in India. The larger entity behind Starlink, SpaceX, sought the Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) license from India’s Department of Telecommunication (DoT) the previous year.

Sources familiar with the matter mention that on September 20, 2023, a DoT committee is scheduled to deliberate over Starlink’s application to function within the nation. An official from the DoT commented, ” The company has applied for the licence, and its application is under consideration.”

Globally, Starlink serves broadband needs in 32 countries and has long desired a foothold in the Indian market. In 2021, the firm began accepting advance bookings without the necessary licenses. This led to the DoT cautioning Starlink against such actions without official permissions. Consequently, the firm, which had deployed over 2,000 satellites in low earth orbit, found itself reimbursing customers.

The DoT representative emphasized the need to incorporate OTT messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram into the licensing structure, not just for the associated revenue but also to ensure public safety. “Bringing these OTT services under a regulatory framework ensures adherence to government directives. For instance, in emergencies similar to the ones in Nuh or Manipur, these apps could be ordered to halt operations, eliminating the need to cut off internet access entirely,” the official elucidated.

Previously, Airtel-supported OneWeb and Jio’s subsidiary, Jio Space Technology, had applied for the GMPCS license. Once Starlink secures this license, the next step would be acquiring the requisite satellite spectrum from the DoT’s wireless planning body.

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