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Govt not happy with Starlink’s responses on data storage, transfer

Not happy with the responses filed by Elon Musk-owned satellite-based internet provider company Starlink, the government has sought definite answers on issues related to data storage and transfer from India-based gateways and various other issues.

In case of failure to answer satisfactorily, the government has asked Starlink to give an undertaking of unconditional compliance for getting a global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCS) license to offer broadband-from-space services in India; the report cited officials in the know.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is also evaluating the application for security-related checks, and a meeting has been scheduled this week, which is expected to see the participation of Starlinks executives. The government does not want Indian data traffic to go outside the country, the report said.

An official aware of the matter was cited in the report as saying, “The company will be a licence holder in India and has to follow the norms. For security concerns, the data has to stay in India.”

What has Starlink said on the subject?
Starlink is reported to have told the government that it follows international regulations as the satellite constellation is global, and data traffic travels accordingly. However, the government is of the view that if the data is not restricted to the Indian territory, it may bypass Indian laws since the rules will not be applicable outside Indian territory.

Bharti Airtel’s OneWeb and Reliance Jio’s satcom arm
OneWeb, backed by Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio’s satcom arm, have already received GMPCS licences from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). Starlink is the third company in this domain that has applied for a license to start offering satellite-based internet services in the Indian market.

What are the rules for foreign entities to offer satellite-based internet services?
Foreign companies are now allowed to set up infrastructure such as earth stations and gateways to offer satellite-based internet services in India. However, they need approval from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe).

India’s new space policy empowers IN-SPACe (an autonomous central regulatory body) to act as a single-window agency to approve the domain of space activities by both government and private companies. Once Starlink is granted approval, it will have to wait for spectrum allocation by DoT. Starlink’s primary rivals, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel’s OneWeb, are already on the waitlist for the allocation of airwaves. Business Standard

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