Musk's SpaceX faces obstacles in India

Elon Musk's SpaceX is struggling with lift-off in India after the Broadband India Forum (BIF) asked regulators to block its launch of Starlink services, claiming SpaceX has neither the license nor the authorization to provide such a service.

SpaceX started the pre-registration process for its satellite-based Starlink service earlier this year. It is already offering Starlink in Canada and the UK and had hoped to launch an Indian service by 2022.

The BIF says SpaceX is not authorized to provide any commercial services during the testing phase.

Its complaint follows one by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which has urged the Department of Space to prevent satellite operators from gaining backdoor entry into the communications market.

Operators said the satellite firms should have to procure spectrum during a government auction.

SpaceX says its satellite technology can support high-speed, low-latency broadband services in any part of the country, including remote areas, at a much cheaper rate than operators. It is using more than 1,000 low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites and plans to increase the number to 42,000 by mid-2027.

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SpaceX would be competing against Amazon's Kuiper Project and Bharti Global's OneWeb.

OneWeb, interestingly, also plans to start offering services in India in 2022, although it has adopted a wholesale model and will not sell services directly to consumers.

Satellite technology is of particular interest to India because half the population is still not connected to the Internet.

While it recently opened up its space sector for private satellite firms and service providers, India still needs to develop a regulatory framework for satellite operators to provide services.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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