Though India’s broadband scenario is not comparable with its global counterparts, the scene can see lots of improvements. The wired vs Wireless debate is going to be over soon, as satcom is coming to India at an affordable (not cheap) price.
There are several satcom projects are aiming to go global, like Tesla famed Elon Musk backed SpaceX, Bharti Airtel backed OneWeb, Amazon backed Project Kuiper, British start-up Methera Global Communications and early entrants like HughesNet, Iridium, Eutelsat, Viasat, O3b Networks. Even Tata Group-backed Nelco is also in talks with Canadian firm Telesat to create a JV to launch satellite communications services in India & globally in the coming days. Telesat’s Light-speed satellite services may be launched in India by 2024 by a JV between Tata’s Nelco & Telesat.
Bharti Airtel has infused 361 million Euros in OneWeb till July 2021, taking its stake to 39%. Other investors in OneWeb are French Eutelsat, Japan’s Softbank & UK Government – each holds a 19.3% stake. UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng shares his excitement as he sees a ‘strong future for this incredible, cutting-edge company and a robust commercial case for investment.’
OneWeb has launched 36 new satellites in May 2021 and the company is working in a war-footing manner to go commercial in mid-2022. In India, they have even obtained a licence of 20 years of satcom operations from DoT.
The major boost in the satcom business came after Elon Musk entered into it with Starlink. The satcom ambitions have been propelled by reduced cost to launch a satellite at space (ISRO showed the path). Also, the cost of building a satellite has been cheaper than ever now, as the companies are building a constellation with several numbers of satellites (Starlink will have 3,000 satellites & OneWeb has plans of 648 satellites initially) – that helps to cut the time and price to build a satellite.
Early data from Ookla shows Starlink offers quite impressive speed – around 80 Mbps (promised speed up to 300 Mbps) with their LEO satellites. That’s too good compared to the average speed of India’s 4G or fiber broadband.
Globally telecom majors are already aware of ‘the threat from space’, though Tesla & SpaceX Starlink owner Elon Musk does not see Starlink as a direct competitor to traditional telecom services. Vodafone & Japanese digicom major Rakuten have been investing in ASG & Science, a company to make tech solutions that would enable smartphones to connect to LEO satellites.
India’s satellite space will be very interesting as it might get launched before 5G comes to India. But it is expected that OneWeb or Starlink would not try to disrupt the market.