After months of security concerns, Elon Musk’s satellite company, Starlink, is set to receive approval from the telecom ministry in India. The company’s proposal for a global mobile personal communication by satellite (GMPCS) services license will be addressed in a high-level meeting scheduled for later this month.
Once Starlink secures the GMPCS license, it will still require additional approvals from government departments and the Department of Space before beginning operations. The approval process is expected to be smooth, but there is a possibility of last-minute issues causing delays.
Starlink will join OneWeb, backed by Sunil Mittal, and Jio, in partnership with Luxembourg-based SES and led by Mukesh Ambani, as holders of GMPCS licenses. Additionally, Jeff Bezos’ ‘Project Kuiper’ is expected to enter the Indian market.
For Mukesh Ambani, keeping foreign competition in satellite broadband at bay would be beneficial. Reliance Jio is already the market leader with 439 million telecom users and holds a 25% market share in wired broadband connections.
Starlink has advocated for the assignment of licenses instead of spectrum auctions, in line with a global trend. The company argues that spectrum is a natural resource that should be shared by companies, and an auction may impose geographical restrictions that raise costs. Reliance, on the other hand, supports an auction to ensure a level playing field and allow foreign satellite service providers to compete with traditional telecom players.
The initial entry of Starlink into the Indian market faced challenges when the company accepted advance payments from subscribers before obtaining a license. The telecom ministry reprimanded Starlink for this behavior, and the company subsequently refunded the payments it had received.
Overall, the approval for Starlink to offer services in India marks a significant development in the country’s satellite communication sector.