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Amazon wants to provide satellite-based broadband in India

Amazon, the e-commerce giant, is moving closer to its plan to provide wireless broadband using satellites in India. It is seeking approval from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (In-SPACe), part of the Department of Space, according to media reports.

The company is also likely to apply to the Department of Telecommunications for a Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite Services (GMPCS) license.

Amazon is expected to start offering services by the end of the year, along with a global launch, according to the media reports. Two prototype satellites from Amazon’s Project Kuiper were launched into space earlier this month.

Amazon hopes to deploy more than 3,200 satellites over the next few years. It would be competing with OneWeb, Tata Group’s Nelco, Starlink and Jio Satellite, among others.

Earlier this year, India came up with the India Space Policy 2023, which opens up the sector for greater participation of private companies, including foreign entities. This led to several enterprises and new startups coming up in this domain. In-SPACe functions as a single-window agency for approvals and authorizations for private and foreign players.

India Space Policy 2023 also allows low Earth orbit (LEO) and medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellation operators to provide wireless broadband services, thus competing with the services provided by the terrestrial service providers.

Allocation arguments
While Reliance Industries’ Jio Satellite and Bharti Group’s OneWeb have already acquired the GMPCS license, Elon Musk’s Starlink’s and Tata’s Nelco’s applications are in process. OneWeb and Jio, which is collaborating with SES for satellite services, will be conducting a live demonstration of the services at an industry event later this month.

While the country is moving towards the launch of satellite-based broadband services, a key question the industry is grappling with is how spectrum for the satellites will be allocated. Jio and Vodafone want it to be auctioned, but this is vehemently opposed by satellite players like Starlink and OneWeb, who want it to be allocated administratively, where the spectrum is allocated according to a set of criteria set by the government.

Typically, spectrum for satellite-based services is allocated administratively. Satellite operators allege that the business of providing satellite-based broadband would become unviable if the spectrum is auctioned. They also allege that the satellite spectrum cannot be broken into chunks like the terrestrial spectrum.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is yet to give its recommendation, even though a consultation paper on this topic was issued two years ago. Light Reading

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