Amazon is following in the footsteps of its US rival, Elon Musk-backed Starlink, by applying for an operating licence for satellite communications in India. The company is in the process of applying for a satellite communications service operator’s licence for its Project Kuiper service and plans to file it with India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in the coming weeks. The licence will allow approved companies to offer satellite-based internet services for various industries, including backhaul for terrestrial communications, maritime, and aviation communications.
Amazon has held meetings with officials from the DoT to understand the process and ensure compliance before filing their licence application. The company expects approval from the ministry after filing. Commenting on the development, an Amazon spokesperson stated that Project Kuiper is a long-term initiative and they look forward to working with the Indian government and local partners to connect customers and communities across the country.
In addition to Amazon, Starlink and Bharti Enterprises-backed OneWeb have also applied for licences to offer satellite internet services in India. Reliance Jio’s satellite broadband arm, Jio Satellite Communications Ltd, is considering seeking airwaves for trials.
Amazon recently confirmed the planned launch of its first prototype satellites and trial services. The company aims to launch its first production satellites in the first half of 2024 and begin beta testing with commercial customers by the end of that year. Project Kuiper will use low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide internet connectivity to areas without accessible terrestrial networks.
Amazon has been preparing for its formal application with the DoT for nearly two years and plans to leverage its enterprise network, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), to gain a significant share in the satellite internet services market.
However, the industry is waiting for the ministry of communications to decide on the accessibility of satellite spectrum for operators. Some companies support administrative allocation, while others advocate for auctioning of airwaves. The ministry is yet to make a final decision, which has delayed the start of services.
Ensuring competitive parity in the industry is crucial, especially since companies like Bharti Airtel are ready to launch their services pending spectrum access.