Tue. Sep 26th, 2023
The Indian Government Seeks Definitive Answers from Starlink on Data Storage and Transfer

The Indian government has expressed dissatisfaction with the responses provided by Starlink, owned by Elon Musk, regarding its queries on data storage and transfer from India-based gateways, among other issues. In order to obtain a global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCS) license to offer broadband-from-space services in India, the government has asked Starlink to provide an undertaking of unconditional compliance. Officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs are currently reviewing the application for security-related checks, with a meeting scheduled for later this week, in which Starlink executives are expected to participate. Data security is a primary concern for the government, and they want to ensure that Indian data traffic does not leave the country.

Although Starlink has stated that it follows international regulations and that data traffic is routed globally according to its satellite constellation, the government remains apprehensive. They believe that if the data is not contained within the territorial limits of India, it may bypass Indian regulations, as these rules would not apply outside of the country. Starlink’s response to these concerns is awaited.

OneWeb, supported by the Bharti Group, and Reliance Jio’s satcom arm have already obtained GMPCS licenses from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). Starlink is the third company to apply for a license to provide satcom services in the Indian market. Additionally, Starlink has applied to the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) to secure the necessary regulatory approvals.

Under India’s new Space Policy 2023, foreign entities can establish infrastructure such as earth stations and gateways and offer satellite services. However, they must seek approval from IN-SPACe, which serves as the single-window agency for authorizing space activities by both government and private satcom players. If Starlink receives approval, it will need to wait for spectrum allocation from DoT.

The Indian satellite communications market is still in its early stages but holds significant potential, especially in rural and remote areas. According to an EY-ISpA report, India’s space economy is projected to reach $13 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 6%. Therefore, companies are keen to launch services quickly in order to establish a first-mover advantage. Alongside OneWeb and Reliance Jio, Amazon’s Project Kuiper has also expressed interest in providing fast broadband services in the second-largest telecom market through satellite technology.

This is SpaceX’s second attempt to enter the Indian market. Last year, they were required to refund pre-booking fees to applicants after the DoT requested that they first obtain regulatory approvals. Since then, SpaceX has withdrawn its communication for pre-orders and reapplied for the necessary approvals.