Amazon finalizing application for satcom licence in India

Amazon finalizing application for satcom licence in India

Tech News

New Delhi: Amazon is in the final stage of applying for an operating licence for satellite communications, following the footsteps of fellow US rival, Elon Musk-backed Starlink, in India.

Four senior industry and ministry officials told Mint that the Seattle-headquartered firm is in the process of applying for a satellite communications service operator’s licence for its Project Kuiper service, and will seek to officially file it with the ministry of communications’ department of telecommunications (DoT) in the coming weeks.

“Amazon has recently met with officials within DoT to understand complications and roadblocks ahead of filing their satellite operators’ licence. They will be filing the licence within the next few weeks, and hope to receive approval,” a senior industry official said, requesting anonymity.

A second senior official within DoT said, “There have been meetings with their representatives. They intend to apply, we’ve asked them to ensure all compliances.”

The licence will enable companies approved in the sector to offer satellite-based internet services to enterprises, which in turn will be used across various industries such as backhaul for terrestrial communications, maritime and aviation communications.

Responding to Mint’s query, an Amazon spokesperson said that Project Kuiper “is a long-term initiative for Amazon, and we look forward to working with the Indian government and local partners to connect customers and communities across the country.”

Multiple firms are set to rival each other for a share of the new satellite internet services market. Elon Musk-backed Starlink, a subsidiary of space services firm SpaceX, has also applied for an operator’s licence, and is expected to receive approval in the coming weeks. Bharti Enterprises-backed satellite operator OneWeb, now part of the French Eutelsat Group, will also offer services. 

Jio Satellite Communications Ltd, the satellite broadband providing arm of Reliance Jio which got its license last year, is learnt to be seeking airwaves for trails, according to one of the officials quoted earlier.  

On Tuesday, Amazon confirmed the launch of its first prototype satellites, and trial services, in a blog post. The company said that its “first production satellites are on track for launch in the first half of 2024″—and beta testing with the first commercial customers set to begin by the end of 2024.

Project Kuiper by Amazon will use a series of low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites in a constellation to beam internet connectivity down to Earth. Such satellite connectivity will be used to augment on-ground networks, and also offer connectivity services in regions that do not have accessible terrestrial networks.

A third industry official close to the development said that Amazon has been building up to its formal application with the DoT for nearly two years now, and will look to tap into Amazon’s wide enterprise network—owing to its dominance of cloud services through Amazon Web Services (AWS)—to capture a significant market share in this space.

The industry, however, presently awaits a decision by the ministry of communications on how satellite spectrum will be made accessible to operators. While the likes of Starlink and Bharti Enterprises have backed administrative allocation of spectrum, the likes of Reliance Jio and Vodafone-Idea have pushed for auctioning of airwaves—claiming that satellite operators will effectively rival in the same space as terrestrial network service providers. The ministry is yet to take a final decision.

A senior industry official said that this has stalled the ability for companies to start their services. “Bharti Airtel, for instance, has its services ready in India, and is only awaiting spectrum access to commence its services. India is a significant market, and the right administrative decision will be key to ensuring competitive parity in the industry,” she said.



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Updated: 03 Oct 2023, 10:42 PM IST

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