Starlink India chief says 2 million terminals to be activated by December 2022; waiting for pilot nods, Telecom News, ET Telecom


New Delhi: Elon Musk’s SpaceX will shortly apply to the Indian government for a license to launch its Starlink satellite broadband services in the country and aims to reach 200,000 active terminals by December 2022, said newly appointed India chief Sanjay Bhargava.

In his initial comments on Starlink’s India plans, Bhargava said in a LinkedIn post on Friday that the government’s approval process was complex and that the company was seeking rapid approval for its pilot program before moving on to approval for an India launch .

Bhargava took over as Country Director of Starlink on Friday, heading SpaceX’s satellite broadband operations in India. He previously worked with tech billionaire Musk and was part of a team that founded electronic payments company PayPal.

Starlink will compete against Bharti Global’s OneWeb and Amazon’s own Satcom services in India’s emerging broadband-from-space market, among others.

“We are optimistic that we will get approval for a pilot program or all-India approval in the next few months,” said Bhargava.

SpaceX has accepted pre-orders for the beta version of its Starlink satellite internet service in India for a fully refundable deposit of $ 99 (approximately Rs 7,350). According to its website, the company’s satellite broadband services are targeted in India by 2022, although availability is subject to regulatory approval and a first-come, first-served approach.

In this regard, Starlink’s new India boss said on his social media post that pre-orders from India had already exceeded 5,000 and urged potential customers to add themselves to the company’s priority list by making the $ 99 Deposit to avoid the hassle of a waiting list.

“Starlink is in many countries (there) and the more pre-orders we have from India, the easier it will be for us to get government approval and prioritize India at SpaceX,” said Bhargava.

However, his comments came even after Telecom Watchdog, a consumer forum, claimed in a letter to the Telecommunications Department (DoT) that Starlink was defrauding consumers in India by accepting $ 99 deposits for its unlicensed satellite internet service. In fact, the telecommunications NGO has called on DoT to “take immediate action to stop” alleged illegal activity by Starlink.

Much is at stake as companies like OneWeb, Starlink, Amazon and the Tata Telesat Combine stand ready to step out of the space segment of India’s relatively young high speed broadband by putting their respective satellite constellations in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to use.
Experts see India as an important emerging market for satellite broadband services with a near-term revenue opportunity of nearly $ 1 billion a year. This is the case as almost 75% of rural India does not have access to broadband as many locations still lack cellular or fiber connectivity. Accordingly, LEO satellite systems are seen as a viable alternative, although they are currently expensive.

In his LinkedIn post, Bhargava said he will be visiting SpaceX’s U.S. operations later this month to get clarity on the company’s overall plans for India. “I’m visiting SpaceX in October and will have a lot better knowledge when I return,” he said.

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