India's telecom authorities have asked people not to subscribe to Elon Musk's SpaceX satellite service, saying it has yet to obtain the licenses and approvals to operate in the country.
"Public is advised not to subscribe to Starlink services being advertised," says a tweet from India's Department of Telecommunications (DoT). It goes on to say that it has asked Starlink to discontinue "booking/rendering the satellite Internet services in India." The DoT had previously instructed Starlink to stop any pre-booking of its services until it acquires the appropriate license.
Earlier this year, Broadband India Forum (BIF) – an independent policy body representing several technology firms including Google, Microsoft and Facebook – complained to the DoT that Starlink was booking orders without the required license. BIF also represents OneWeb and Amazon, two Starlink rivals. The DoT has subsequently looked into whether Starlink violated the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 and the Indian Satcom policy.
More recently, Telecom Watchdog, a non-governmental organization, wrote to the DoT saying that the action it took was "highly belated and inadequate," according to media reports. It demanded accountability for the delay, which might have led to more consumers signing up to the forthcoming Starlink service.
Starlink, which operates a constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, started pre-booking in March this year and has already reserved 5,000 orders in India. It is booking services for a refundable charge of $99 and aims to have 200,000 devices in India by December 2022, with 80% of those in rural areas.
The company recently registered a wholly owned subsidiary, Starlink Satellite Communications Private Limited, in India, allowing it to apply for the requisite licenses. It also hired senior executives.
Apart from Starlink, Amazon's Kuiper and OneWeb (part-owned by India's Bharti Enterprises) are targeting the Indian market. This is mainly because more than 700 million people, about 50% of the population, are yet to be connected. Moreover, a significant percentage live in remote and rural areas, a challenge for service providers to connect using terrestrial technology.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading