The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will shortly ask the industry regulator to unveil a discriptive discussion paper on a new licensing structure for operators of low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, people familiar with the matter said.
“The upcoming paper from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is likely to seek industry views on whether a new category of licences must be created for LEO players operating satellite gateways in India, or whether the scope of existing satcom permits/processes need to be widened and also simplified to accommodate them,” someone cited told ET in an article.
Trai added, it is also likely to seek views on spectrum bands which should be allotted for LEO satellite gateway functioning.
A gateway, in this case, would handle a LEO constellation and also allow bandwidth connectivity between a satellite and the end-user of satellite broadband services in the country.
The DoT move comes with the likes of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and OneWeb—backed by Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Group and the UK government—readying to start satellite internet operations in India next year, leveraging their respective LEO satellite constellations, and Jeff Bezos-founded Amazon too eyeing the segment as part of its global LEO space internet initiative, Project Kuiper.
“Creating a new licence category for LEO satellite gateway operations would add to redundant permits, so instead efforts should be to simplify processes and procedures of existing satcom (read: VSAT) licences to accommodate the LEO players,” said a senior industry executive.
Almost 75% of rural India does not have access to broadband as many areas are without cellular or fibre connectivity. As a result, LEO satellite systems are being viewed as a viable alternative, though these are costly right now.
But with LEO satellite technology rapidly gaining global scale, with OneWeb, SpaceX and Amazon set to compete aggressively to take fast satellite broadband to rural and remote areas, the price of such services will gradually decline, even in India, experts said. Satellite broadband rates in India are nearly 30 times that of 4G mobile broadband. Its costs $15-20 per GB, compared with $0.68 for mobile data.