The battle between India’s top telecom giants, Reliance Jio and Airtel, continues to unfold in a new arena – the satellite broadband space. With the nascent market estimated to be worth up to $600 billion, both companies are gearing up to launch their own satellite broadband services.
Jio Satellite, in collaboration with Luxembourg-based satellite provider SES, claims to be the first non-geostationary (NGSO) satellite provider in India. They have plans to launch broadband-from-space services within a few weeks of being allotted spectrum. On the other hand, Airtel, through its majority stake in OneWeb, is also preparing to connect the entire country with satellite communication services.
While Jio aims to provide internet access to rural and remote areas as well as urban locations, OneWeb is primarily focused on the enterprise segment. This includes sectors such as defense, maritime, aviation, and government departments. With their respective strategies, both companies hope to bring high-speed internet connectivity to every corner of India, including areas that are difficult to reach with traditional optic fiber networks.
However, one major factor that may impact the affordability of satellite communication services in rural and remote areas is the cost. Analysts suggest that unless the government provides subsidies, these services may be expensive for consumers. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the players can find a way to make their services accessible to consumers in these regions while keeping costs reasonable.
Another key challenge that both Jio and Airtel face is the availability of spectrum for satellite broadband services. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is yet to provide recommendations on whether spectrum should be allotted administratively or through an auction process. Airtel argues against auctioning satellite spectrum, while Jio believes in a level playing field with all services following the same rules.
Amidst these uncertainties, it is clear that Jio and Airtel are determined to dominate the satellite communications market in India. As the country with the largest number of telecom and internet users outside China, India presents a vast market opportunity for these telecom giants.
The future of satellite broadband in India hinges on the next developments regarding spectrum allocation. Regardless of the outcome, Jio and Airtel remain committed to expanding their presence and delivering affordable, high-speed internet connectivity to millions of Indians across the country. ISP