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OneWeb receives Indian operating licence

March 21, 2022

By Chris Forrester

The question of whether India would ever refuse OneWeb an operating licence has never been in doubt. Now OneWeb has received its all-important Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite (GMPCS) licence.

The formal permission came from India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT), paving the way for OneWeb to launch its broadband service in India later this year. The launch in India though is likely to get delayed beyond the initially expected May 2022 timeline, due to challenges brought by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and a severe slow-down in launching the remaining one-third of its satellite fleet.

OneWeb’s largest shareholder is Bharti Group. OneWeb has about 428 satellites in orbit out of a target 600 needed for a near-global service.

Timing is everything for the embryonic service, and India’s massive potential recognised by plenty of would-be rivals.

For example, SpaceX’s Starlink service was warned – and lost its CEO – when it emerged that it was soliciting subscribers without an operating licence.

In February a major rival to Bharti emerged in the shape of Mukesh Ambani-owned Jio Platforms (JPL) which partnered with Luxembourg’s SES to deliver fast broadband from space services across India and neighbouring markets using its geostationary (GEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellations. A separate Jio arm has also applied for a GMPCS licence.

Besides Starlink there’s also the Jeff Bezos-backed Amazon/Project Kuiper scheme, although not a single Kuiper satellite has yet launched. There’s also India talk from Ottawa-based Telesat which is in discussion with another giant Indian conglomerate, Tata Group.

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