SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk and its satellite internet venture Starlink’s bid for a foraying into the Indian satellite broadband sector in 2022, is facing a lot of challenges. A consumer forum and NGO, Telecom Watchdog, has alleged that Starlink Internet Services is cheating users in India as it has started accepting pre-orders for the satellite internet service for a completely refundable deposit of $99 (nearly Rs 7,500) even before securing a licence in the country.
Starlink Faces Challenges
As per ET Telecom, the telecom NGO wrote a letter to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) secretary. In this letter, it alleged that Starlink’s decision to accept bookings and collect money from the consumers in India in US dollars without submitting an application to get a licence is illegal. Also, it notes that this act is a serious offence as per the RBI Rules. The letter further added that the RBI rules permit remittance to a foreign party only for certain purposes for which the party has the right to get the money.
Furthermore, it stated that consumers are being cheated by a company that belongs to a foreign country registered as Starlink Internet Services Ltd. This company is registered in tax haven Ireland as per the details on the DoT website. The prime reason for this accusation is that Starlink has not got any licence from the Indian government to provide satellite-based communication services in the country to date, but it is asking interested users to pay $99 per deposit. Apparently, it calls this illegal money collection.
Notably, a copy of the letter written to the DoT secretary has been market to the telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnav and to P D Vaghela, the TRAI chairman. Furthermore, the letter urged DoT to take immediate action to stop the illegal activities of Starlink Internet Services.
Prior to this, Starlink faced a challenge in March 2021 wherein the Broadband India Forum, an industry body that represents the likes of Amazon, OneWeb, Hughes, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, wrote to TRAI and ISRO asking them to stop SpaceX from pre-selling its Starlink satellite internet services beta version in India. It was cited that the company did not secure a licence from the government back then as well.
However, Starlink’s website notes that it targets to launch its services in 2022 in the country and is subject to regulatory approvals, and its services will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.