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India’s billionaires gain advantage over Musk

June 10, 2024

Eutelsat’s OneWeb constellation could soon be active over India thanks to its Indian shareholders Bharti Airtel. The latest reports from India suggest that OneWeb’s permissions to operate over India could be approved later this month.

Elon Musk’s Starlink, despite favourable comments from India’s prime minister Modi, is still suffering regulatory delays.

Starlink has received permission to operate its private broadband-by-satellite service from IN-SPACe, the Indian space regulator, but suitable frequencies have still to be sanctioned.

Meanwhile, Eutelsat’s OneWeb, in which Airtel is a major shareholder, now expect to receive its final permissions during June and thus confirming what Eutelsat’s CFO Christophe Caudrelier told investors and analysts on its May 14th results call.

OneWeb has some 630 satellites in its global constellation and is expecting to have 38 Earth teleport gateways operational by mid-2024.

Besides SpaceX entering the Indian market there’s also Mukesh Ambani’s JioSpaceFibre, which has a relationship with Luxembourg-based SES, also reported to be starting satellite-based services later this year. Ambani’s Reliance is the nation’s largest telecoms operator with just over 50 per cent of the nation’s 924 million subscribers. Reliance Jio is expected to confirm its broadband satellite roll-out at its AGM in August.

“Once you do get connectivity, people tend not to change their providers,” said Santosh Tiwari, a Bengaluru-based partner at consultancy EY Parthenon, which estimates satellite internet in India is a potential $1 billion revenue market, reported the Financial Times.

Tiwari added that he expected most of the business to flow from business-to-business internet for OneWeb, and not from retail consumer activity. OneWeb, helped by Bharti’s connections, to also include connectivity for India’s army and navy in remote locations.

Musk’s Starlink, however, is targeting individual consumers and businesses but is reported to be further behind despite having around 5000 ‘informal/illegal’ subscribers a year ago. Starlink was told to close down these unlicensed customers pending regulatory approvals.

Separately, Sri Lanka has approved Starlink’s broadband internet service. A government statement said: “Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) has given the green light for Starlink to launch satellite internet services in Sri Lanka, pending a two-week public consultation period.”

The launch of Starlink “will revolutionise our connectivity, opening up new horizons, especially for our youth, said the President’s office.

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