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After DoT, TRAI asks Starlink to stop taking pre-orders in India

It has been a week since Elon Musk-backed broadband service Starlink stopped taking pre-orders in India. The development came after the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had warned that the company had not acquired licenses to provide the services in the country. Now, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in a directive has noted that Starlink should desist from soliciting business and related fees.

“Starlink Internet Services is required to desist from soliciting telecom business and collecting related feesetc, without having received necessary authorisation and adhering to relevant statutory provisions,” ET quoted TRAI in a directive dated December 7, 2021. TRAI, in the letter, noted that the “soliciting of business for the provision of broadband service has to be in accordance with extant statutory provisions related to telecom services.”

Earlier this week, the company head for India, Sanjay Bhargava in a LinkedIn post, noted that Starlink aims to apply for a commercial license by January 31, 2022. Starlink has also prepared two guides — one for individuals and the private sector and one for state and union territories. Talking about Starlink’s arrival in India, Bhargava noted that it is not certain when the service would roll out in India but reports speculate that the space broadband service will start rolling out in India by 2022. “There are currently unknowns on when you may get your Starlink but please pay careful consideration to whether Starlink could just be the broadband solution you need,” Bhargava noted.

Starlink did not announce the move exclusively but is not accepting any pre-orders through its website, which were made available for a refundable deposit of $99 in February earlier this year. The website now reads, “Starlink is not yet available in your area but as we launch more satellites, we continue to expand our coverage area. Please check back for future availability in your area.” Until now, Starlink was taking pre-orders for satellite broadband connection service for a refundable deposit of $99. Starlink had announced its plans to offer satellite broadband services in India starting December 2022.

Earlier, Telecom Watchdog, an NGO in a letter to DoT reiterated that DoT should file a criminal case against Starlink for cheating, refund to citizens the entire money with interest and without any deductions, conduct an investigation into the entire episode on how Starlink could launch the pre-booking since February 2021, and issue strict disciplinary action against the officers for delayed and inadequate action on the issue. India Today

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