India: Starlink must refund deposits

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Elon Musk’s Starlink broadband by satellite service is to return deposits paid by would-be subscribers in India.

The satellite operator has been directed by India’s Department of Telecom (DoT) to refund these pre-order deposits until such time as the company is permitted to operate in India. At the moment, while it has applied for an operating licence, nothing has been granted.

Starlink India has now emailed its local customers stating that it has been directed by the DoT to refund pre-orders. The reason given by Starlink in the email is that the timeline for receiving licences to operate in India is “currently unknown” and that there are “several issues” that must be resolved within the licensing framework to allow the company to operate Starlink in India.

In December 2021 Starlink’s local director Sanjay Bhargava stated that the company hoped to apply for a commercial licence on or before January 31st 2022. Reportedly the company aimed to have 200,000 Starlink devices in India by December 2022, if it could roll out services in the country by April. Starlink is said to have received over 5,000 pre-orders for its satellite Internet service in India, but the company had recently stopped taking pre-orders pending regulatory approval.

Starlink was only formally incorporated locally in November 2021.

There’s also the potential for political interference in the approval process given that local company OneWeb is very much backed by Indian entrepreneur Mittel Bharti and his Bharti Enterprises which owns 42.2 per cent of OneWeb.


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