The company is yet to receive any authorization or approval to provide Internet services. Despite this it has started accepting pre-orders for the beta version of its Starlink satellite Internet services for $99, or around INR7,000. SpaceX hopes to begin offering services in 2022.
It is unclear if it needs an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) license to offer services. It might also need permission from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Center (IN-SPACe), part of the Department of Space (DoS) to acquire landing rights to use signals of foreign satellites in India.
SpaceX would be required to provide specific details about the kind of services, the spectrum bands it would be using and the foreign satellite capacity it would be using to provide broadband.
India is yet to come up with a regulatory and licensing framework for satellite-based service providers. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) started a consultation process for satellite-based connectivity and Internet of Things (IoT) applications in March.
Industry stakeholders have recommended Indian authorities bring down customs duties on satellite gear, and lower spectrum usage charges (SUC) to 1% of adjusted gross revenue (AGR), to make it affordable for ordinary people. The government is also working on a new space communications policy.
Industry body Broadband India Forum (BIF) had objected previously, saying SpaceX should not be allowed to provide services in the country since it doesn't have any approvals. BIF represents several of SpaceX's rivals including OneWeb and Amazon.
SpaceX has launched more than 1,200 low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, and started offering services in several countries, including the US.
Meanwhile, OneWeb has around 182 satellites. Jeff Bezos' Project Kuiper plans a constellation of 3,236 LEO satellites.
Various business models are emerging for satellite providers. While SpaceX would be selling directly to the consumers, Bharti's OneWeb plans to focus only on the wholesale market.
Satellites are the latest buzzwords in connectivity solutions. They enable operators to provide high-speed broadband in remote and rural areas that telcos typically ignore because of the high cost and low returns.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading