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Don’t auction satellite spectrum if you want good rural broadband, says telco body IAFI chief

Internet services via satellite will play a critical role in providing broadband to rural India. But auctioning the satellite spectrum — which is something that is an option for the government — could make rural connectivity that much harder to achieve, says Bharat Bhatia, president of the non-profit telecom industry body ITU-APT Foundation of India (IAFI).

The IAFI is partnered with two international bodies — the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is the United Nations’ specialised agency for information and communication technologies (ICT), and the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT), an intergovernmental organisation set up to promote ICT in the Asia-Pacific region.

In a 13 September interview with ThePrint, Bhatia spoke about the importance of satellite spectrum in meeting India’s connectivity goals. He also discussed the challenge before the government at a time when satellite players are arguing that telco players shouldn’t get everything when it comes to spectrum.

For Bhatia, allocating spectrum administratively rather than via an auction seems to be the better option.

“It doesn’t make sense for spectrum for satellite use to be auctioned because if one operator buys it, no one else can access it and the satellite industry will not grow in India, hindering the goal of rural broadband connectivity,” he said.

The race for spectrum is heating up in India since it’s a limited, scarce resource, but more and more companies are trying to enter telecom and satellite communication services.

Now in India, Amazon’s Project Kuiper is looking to provide internet via satellite, as are Bharti Enterprises (parent company of Airtel) via OneWeb and Jio Satellite.

Last week, Hughes Communications India and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced their joint commercial launch of the country’s first high-throughput (HTS) broadband service. But before that, Elon Musk’s Starlink exited India after delays in getting approvals

What’s important right now, Bhatia said, is that the government must “expedite the process” to issue spectrum to satellite service providers, since doing so is the best way to provide connectivity to rural India. The Print

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