Starlink, the SpaceX-owned satellite internet service, will apply for a commercial license in India early next year. Sanjay Bhargava, Starlink Country Director, said that they plan to apply for the same by 31st January 2022.
A presentation posted by Bhargava on LinkedIn notes that Starlink aims to have 200,000 terminals in India by December 2022. That is, if it begins rollout by April next year.
Bhargava had this to say in his post:
A 100% Broadband India will require collaboration across stakeholders, service providers, and technologies, and we encourage everyone to think about their use cases and develop connectivity plans for districts as well as private use.
DoT Cracks the Whip
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This move came after the Indian government ordered Starlink to cease “booking/rendering the satellite internet services in India with immediate effect”. It had been accepting pre-orders without acquiring licensing from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Following the stern missive by the Indian telecom regulatory body, the SpaceX-owned company had applied for an “experimental license” for pilot operations. This license will allow the company to test its services over a limited number of subscribers. However, it will not allow it to launch commercial services in the country. The company has also stopped taking pre-booking orders on its website, citing “pending regulatory approval”. It is unclear whether it plans on refunding these pre-orders.
How Starlink Could be Beneficial for India
According to a 2020 report, nearly 28,000 Indian villages lack internet connections. Starlink’s services, if and when they become operational, could play a vital role in connecting rural or remote areas. Gram Panchayats could get one terminal installed in each village and provide internet connectivity to villagers. Bhargava’s presentation puts the onus on states and Union territories to fund the approximately ₹1,50,000 annual cost per Starlink terminal for the first year.