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Tata Group to compete against SpaceX and Amazon in satellite broadband market with partner Telesat

As the Government of India prepares to reveal its policy for allowing private competitors in the satellite broadband sector, the Tata group and Telesat, a Canadian satellite communications services provider, are finalising their strategy to enter the market. Other major companies showing an interest in this growing industry are Elon Musk’s Starlink, Amazon’s Project Kuiper and Sunil Bharti Mittal’s One Web.

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In September 2020, Nelco, which is a Tata group company, joined hands with Telesat with the goal of offering enterprise broadband services based on Telesat’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. The two sides have been working on a strategy to roll out services in India after the government declares the policy for the past ten months.

PJ Nath, who is the managing director and chief executive officer at Nelco Limited, told BusinessLine that the Tata group company and Telesat are working on finalising the commercial offerings for enterprise market segments, which are still awaiting regulatory approval. According to the CEO, the market requirements for distinct segments are diverse, and these are being analysed together. Additionally, he said: “Together, we await the new Spacecom policy announcement which will help to further fine-tune and finalise our offerings in the country”.

Telesat’s Spectrum and Market Access Director, Laura Roberti, said the Canadian corporation is also looking into potential local agreements with Indian companies for its LEO network’s terrestrial connectivity. Telesat hopes to explore site locations for gateway landing stations and points of presence in India through these partnerships.

The LEO-satellite designs enable quicker communications due to lower latency and give more bandwidth per user than the currently operational Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellites that provide broadband services.

However, Roberti, commenting on the continuing dispute over whether satellite spectrum should be auctioned like terrestrial spectrum, argued that spectrum assignment by auction is not appropriate for microwave bandwidth that will be utilised for satellite service providing. According to Telesat’s official, this would result in wasteful spectrum usage, among other problems. Roberti also said: “There is no precedent for spectrum assignment by auction for satellite services in these frequency bands”.

In the case of other companies, Bharti Global, the overseas arm of Bharti Enterprises, announced on 29 June that it would invest $500 million (Rs 3,714 crore) to become the largest shareholder of the OneWeb—a company which it rescued from bankruptcy last year with the help of the Government of United Kingdom. The deal is expected to be completed in the second half of this year. Sunil Bharti Mittal, the executive chair of OneWeb and telecom company Bharti Airtel, said earlier that there was a clear commercial opportunity for the satellite communication company.

Additionally, he said: “With its Global ITU LEO Spectrum priority, telco partnerships, successful launch momentum and reliable satellites, OneWeb is ready to serve the vital needs of high-speed broadband connectivity for those who have been left behind”.

Starlink is the name of a satellite network being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX to bring low-cost internet to remote areas. In January 2015, SpaceX announced its concept for satellite internet. Later, Musk announced that the company had submitted paperwork with international regulators to launch 4,000 satellites into LEO.

Amazon revealed in April this year that its $10 billion satellite internet initiative, Project Kuiper, will launch its first satellites into orbit on nine United Launch Alliance rockets, a joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin venture. The tech behemoth intends to launch 3,236 satellites, half of which must be in orbit by the end of July 2026, as per the terms of its Federal Communications Commission authorisation. Swarajya Mag

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