The allocation of spectrum for satellite communication in India has sparked a debate between industry players, regulatory authorities, and telecom operators. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released a consultation paper on the Assignment of Spectrum for Space-Based Communication, which has drawn varied opinions from stakeholders. While some advocate for the administrative process of spectrum allocation, others argue in favour of transparent auctions. In this article, we will explore the differing viewpoints and the implications of each approach.
Opposing Views on Spectrum Allocation:
According to the Indian Space Association (ISpA) (via PTI), around 73% of the 64 respondents, including Starlink, Amazon, and OneWeb, support the allocation of spectrum through an administrative process rather than auctions. ISpA, a prominent industry body in the space sector, maintains that global best practices favour administrative allocation for satellite spectrum. ISpA's Director General, AK Bhatt, asserts that this approach aligns with the successful global adoption of space-based communication technology.
Reliance Jio and Vodafone, however, oppose the administrative allocation process and cite a Supreme Court order that mandates the transfer of the right to use such spectrum through transparent auctions. These telecom operators emphasise the importance of adhering to the court's decision, raising concerns about potential legal implications.
Bharti Airtel's Stance and Backing:
Bharti Airtel, which holds a majority stake in OneWeb, supports the demand of satellite companies for administrative allocation of spectrum. The company stands apart from its competitors and asserts that the Supreme Court judgment does not bind the government to allocate spectrum solely through auctions. Airtel's backing of satellite companies reflects its confidence in the efficacy of the administrative process for spectrum allocation.
Project Kuiper and Antyodaya Mission:
Amazon, as part of its Project Kuiper, plans to launch a non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) constellation consisting of over 3,000 satellites. It aims to provide high-capacity, high-speed, and low-latency broadband services to residential customers, schools, and businesses, including those in remote communities in India. Amazon argues that the Supreme Court judgment does not mandate spectrum allocation through auctions, and the company supports administrative allocation for its ambitious project.
Elon Musk's Starlink invokes the government's Antyodaya mission, which seeks to extend the benefits of development to underserved communities. Starlink emphasises that NGSO satellite constellations can rapidly deploy in any location, bridging the connectivity gap for currently underserved communities and aligning with the mission's objectives.