Broadband from space! Why Sunil Mittal-backed Eutelsat OneWeb may steal a march over Ambani’s Jio and Elon Musk’s Starlink in India

3 months ago
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Eutelsat OneWeb vs Reliance Jio vs Starlink: Bharti-backed Eutelsat OneWeb is positioning itself to lead the race in providing satellite broadband services in India, surpassing competitors like Elon Musk’s Starlink and Mukesh Ambani ’s Reliance Jio. This will make it the first global satellite biggie offering broadband-from-space services in India.The company has secured demo satellite spectrum in the ‘Ka’ and ‘Ku’ bands for a 90-day period through the administrative route, distinguishing its approach from that of Starlink, which targets retail users. Eutelsat OneWeb’s focus is on a business-to-business (B2B) model.The ‘Ka’ band spectrum is crucial for the operation of earth stations, while the ‘Ku’ band supports user access terminals.According to a senior official quoted by ET, Eutelsat OneWeb is conducting trials on its satellite broadband network with key clients in India’s defense and public sector entities in preparation for a full commercial launch. The company anticipates receiving commercial satellite spectrum allocation soon and has committed to complying with the regulatory framework set by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

The DoT is in the process of finalizing the administrative allocation of satellite spectrum and determining pricing based on regulatory guidelines. The new Telecommunication Act of 2023 now facilitates the allocation of satellite spectrum through administrative channels.

Eutelsat’s revenue stream will cater to enterprises, defence, aviation, maritime sectors, and governments. The company plans to offer satellite connectivity to support mobile broadband coverage in rural areas where terrestrial backhaul links are limited. Eutelsat is open to providing backhaul support services to any telco operating in rural India.

It aims to outpace competitors like Jio, Starlink, Amazon Kuiper, and the Tatas. Eutelsat OneWeb holds the necessary licenses from the space industry regulator, IN-SPACe. The company’s earth stations in Gujarat and near Chennai are operational, positioning it at the forefront of the burgeoning Indian satellite communication market.

The focus of broadband-from-space services in India is to bridge the digital divide, especially in underserved rural and remote regions. IN-SPACe projects significant growth potential in India’s space economy, estimating a potential value of $44 billion by 2033.

Recent amendments in FDI rules for the space sector allow for increased foreign investment in satellite launch vehicles and satellite components manufacturing. The Indian government is likely to categorize satellite broadband as a telecom service, enabling pure satellite internet providers to attract 100% FDI through the automatic route, akin to telecom service providers.…Read more by Scott Martin

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