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Starlink joins the race with OneWeb & Jio, GMPCS licence by October

Elon Musk owned Starlink will get Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) licence by the government next month.

Once this happens, the company will be the third entity after, Bharti’s OneWeb and Jio Satellite, to become eligible for spectrum allocation after which they can start providing satellite broadband services.

Official sources said that SpaceX, which operates Starlink, has complied with all the regulatory process like providing necessary information with regard to the location of satellites, data transfer and storage, plan for providing broadband services in India, among other things.

With the completion of these processes, a formal clearance is required from department of space, department of telecommunications (DoT), and home ministry, which is expected next month.

Last year in October, Fe was the first to report that the company had re-initiated talks with the DoT to apply for the GMPCS licence.

Separately, the company has also applied for approval from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) for offering Internet services in the country.

According to officials, processing Starlink’s application took a long time because the company was slow in completing the necessary documentation.

A GMPCS licence is required to offer voice and data services through satellite. The licence is issued for a period of 20 years and this allows the companies to offer satellite communication services in licensed service areas. However, with the introduction of the space policy recently, the companies can also seek approval from In-SPACe for providing such services.

Two years back, DoT had asked Starlink to stop taking pre-bookings for its satellite Internet services in India and first get a licence to offer such services. In compliance with the DoT order, the company had returned the booking amount of $99 (Rs 8,000) to over a 5,000 pre-booked customers.

Pricing for satellite broadband space will be at a premium to fiber-based broadband services, but with the entry of Starlink some promotional offers are expected.

As per industry estimates, the pricing of satellite Internet services is expected to be around Rs 8,000-10,000 per month along with one time set-up cost. This is significantly high, compared to affordable home broadband plans of Rs 399 per month by telcos such as Reliance Jio.

Satellite Internet services are best suited for far-flung areas, where to make the services affordable the companies may need some form of government subsidy.

The companies are awaiting clarity on the method of allocation of spectrum and foreign direct investment norms, which are crucial before services can be started. Financial Express

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