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Spectrum allocation for satellite communication players under scrutiny

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In Short:

The government needs to speed up the spectrum allotment to satellite communication firms, especially in times of crisis like natural disasters. Satellite firms can bridge the gap between urban and rural India, but high costs have deterred telecom players. India’s space economy is projected to reach $13 billion by 2025. The satellite industry has immense potential to provide connectivity in remote areas and during emergencies.

The Need for Expedited Spectrum Allotment to Satellite Communication Firms

Government indecision: The government has been delaying the allotment of spectrum to satellite communication firms, but there is a pressing need to expedite the process. Recent events, like the Taiwan earthquake, have underscored the crucial role of satellite firms in providing connectivity to affected areas during crises to facilitate communication.

Potential of Satellite-based Connectivity

Last-mile connectivity: Satellite-based connectivity has the potential to narrow the gap between urban and rural India by providing last-mile connectivity. Telecom players have been deterred from extending their reach into rural areas due to high infrastructure costs and low profitability. In contrast, the satellite sector has shown immense potential and attracted interest from foreign companies like Bharti-backed Eutelsat OneWeb, Elon Musk’s Starlink, and Amazon.

Market Growth and Projections

Market potential: India’s satellite communications market is still in its infancy, with significant growth potential. A report by EY-ISpA projects India’s space economy to reach $13 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6%.

Views of Telecom Players

Divergent views: Top telecom players like Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel have conflicting opinions on spectrum allocation methods. While Jio prefers an auction route, Airtel advocates for administrative allocation. The debate extends to the utilization of administratively allocated spectrum for offering fixed wireless access (FWA) services.

Utilization and Use Cases

Key applications: Once Satcom services are launched in India, they can serve critical purposes like providing connectivity during natural disasters and bridging the connectivity gap in remote areas. OneWeb India is in talks with Indian defense forces, Ministries of Health and Education, and other stakeholders to showcase various use cases for satellite-based broadband services.

Backhaul: Another significant use case for satcom services is backhaul, especially with the increasing traffic on 5G networks. Backhaul via satellite connectivity can offer immediate and compelling solutions despite the limited fiberized terrestrial mobile networks.

Future Prospect and Challenges

Addressing digital divide: Satellite broadband services have the potential to address connectivity gaps and reduce the digital divide across India. While the new Telecommunications Act mandates administrative spectrum allocation for satcom, detailed procedures are still pending government clarification, which may take a few more months to finalize.

Industry growth: Despite being in its early stages, the satellite industry presents immense opportunities to resolve last-mile connectivity challenges in India, especially with the anticipated combination of 5G and Satcom technologies.

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