Satcom Players Want USOF, Telcos Don’t Like That

The telecom operators don’t like that satcom players are eyeing on the USOF. Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) recently urged the government to use the USOF for subsidising smartphones for select group of people so that even the low-income users who can’t afford a decent 4G smartphone can purchase one.

Highlights

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is still working on the pricing of the different spectrum bands.
  • The Universal Service Obligations Fund (USOF) was set up in 2003.
  • The telecom operators don’t like that satcom players are eyeing at the USOF.

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Satcom Players

The Universal Service Obligations Fund (USOF) was set up in 2003 with the aim to provide subsidies to operators and help expand connectivity in rural and remote areas of the country. Now, the satellite communications (satcom) players want access to the USOF. Starlink, one of the major satellite broadband service providers owned by SpaceX, is expected to launch commercial services in India in 2022. Starlink has asked the government to tap into the USOF for funding the first-year cost of setting up and installing the Starlink hardware.




Telcos Want Govt to Treat Satcom Not More than What It Is

The telecom operators don’t like that satcom players are eyeing the USOF. Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), recently urged the government to use the USOF for subsidising smartphones for a select group of people so that even the low-income users who can’t afford a decent 4G smartphone can purchase one.

Not only Ambani but also P Balaji, Chief Regulatory and Corporate Affairs Officer, Vodafone Idea (Vi), urged the government to keep India an operator-led broadband and rural coverage country. Balaji requested the government to not treat the satellite systems in any special way as it is just a jump technology model for reaching the floating population or for specific inhospitable terrains.

The telcos are also not happy about the demand for administrative allocation of the spectrum from the satcom players. Telecom operators want the government to give spectrum to every player involved in a uniform and transparent manner through an auction. The satcom players are arguing that it would be unprecedented, and even the other nations don’t give satcom sector spectrum through auctions, but administrative allocation.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is still working on the pricing of the different spectrum bands. Things for the industry should be clear soon enough as the spectrum auctions are expected to take place between April and June 2022.

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