Despite the fact that India’s broadband situation is not comparable to that of its global counterparts, the situation is improving. The debate over wired vs. wireless will soon be over, as Satcom will soon be available in India at a reasonable (but not cheap) price.
Several satcom projects, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Bharti Airtel’s OneWeb, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, British start-up Methera Global Communications, and early entrants HughesNet, Iridium, Eutelsat, Viasat, and O3b Networks, are aiming to go global. Even Nelco, backed by the Tata Group, is in talks with Telesat, a Canadian firm, to form a joint venture to launch satellite communications services in India and around the world in the coming days. A joint venture between Tata’s Nelco and Telesat could launch Telesat’s Light-speed satellite services in India by 2024.
Bharti Airtel has invested 361 million Euros in OneWeb until July 2021, giving it a 39 percent stake in the company. The French company Eutelsat, Japan’s Softbank, and the UK government are also shareholders in OneWeb, with each holding a 19.3 percent stake. Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK Business Secretary, expresses his delight, seeing a “strong future for this incredible, cutting-edge company and a robust commercial case for investment.”
In May 2021, OneWeb launched 36 new satellites, and the company is gearing up for a commercial launch in mid-2022. They’ve even gotten a 20-year Satcom license from the Department of Telecom in India.
Elon Musk’s partnership with Starlink gave the Satcom industry a major boost. The reduced cost of launching a satellite into space has fueled Satcom ambitions (ISRO showed the path). Also, because the companies are building a constellation with multiple numbers of satellites (Starlink will have 3,000 satellites, and OneWeb has plans for 648 satellites initially), the cost of building a satellite is lower than it has ever been. This helps to reduce the time and cost of building a satellite.
Starlink’s LEO satellites, according to early data from Ookla, give fairly outstanding speed – around 80 Mbps (promised speed up to 300 Mbps). That’s a lot faster than India’s typical 4G or fiber broadband speed.
Telecom companies around the world are already aware of the ‘threat from space,’ though Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, does not see Starlink as a direct competitor to established telecom services. Vodafone and Rakuten, a Japanese digital media business, have invested in ASG & Science, a startup that develops technology that allows smartphones to link to LEO satellites.