After making waves in the telecom sector, the top two telecom companies in India, Reliance Jio and Airtel, are now gearing up to challenge each other in the satellite broadband market. Jio Satellite, owned by Mukesh Ambani, and OneWeb, in which Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Enterprises holds a majority stake, are both planning to launch satellite broadband services in the near future.
Although the satellite broadband market is still in its early stages, it has the potential to reach a value of up to $600 billion. Currently, the space economy accounts for only 2% of the overall market, but it is expected to grow to 5-8% within the next 5-10 years.
Reliance Jio, in partnership with Luxembourg-based satellite provider SES, claims to be the first non-geostationary satellite provider in India and the first to offer gigabit-capable services. The company is ready to launch its broadband-from-space services as soon as it is allocated spectrum.
OneWeb, on the other hand, is ready to connect all parts of the country with its satellite communication service, targeting both rural and urban areas. It aims to tap into the enterprise segment, including defense, maritime, aviation, and government sectors.
Satellite broadband services have the potential to bring internet connectivity to remote areas that are difficult to reach with traditional optic fiber networks. However, analysts believe that the services might be expensive for consumers in rural and remote areas unless the government provides some form of subsidy to support the players in this market.
The availability of spectrum is still a critical issue for launching satellite broadband services, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is yet to provide recommendations on whether spectrum should be allotted administratively or through an auction. Airtel and Jio have different views on this matter, with Airtel opposing the auction of satellite spectrum, while Jio believes that the same rules should apply to all players.
With India having the largest number of telecom and internet users outside of China, the market holds immense potential. The industry is eagerly waiting for further developments regarding the allocation of spectrum, as it will determine the future of satellite broadband services in the country. Regardless, the industry giants, Jio and Airtel, are now competing in this new segment.