Elon Musk’s satellite project, Starlink is, on the verge of receiving approval from the telecom ministry in India. Following security concerns a significant meeting is scheduled to take place where they may grant Starlink a license to offer mobile satellite communication services under the GMPCS category. The competition, in the satellite broadband industry, is heating up in India with the entry of OneWeb, Jio, and Amazon’s Project Kuiper.

Elon Musk: Starlink to soon receive approval from telecom ministry

Elon Musk’s satellite venture, Starlink, is on the verge of obtaining approval from India’s telecom ministry to offer its services after months of grappling with security concerns. 

In an upcoming high-level meeting slated for later this month, Starlink’s proposal for a global mobile personal communication by satellite (GMPCS) services license will take center stage. While approval appears likely, unforeseen issues could still potentially disrupt the process.

Once Starlink secures the GMPCS license, it must navigate a maze of additional approvals from various government departments and the Department of Space before it can officially commence operations and start accepting orders. 

Notably, OneWeb, backed by Sunil Mittal, and Jio, in collaboration with Luxembourg-based SES and under the leadership of Mukesh Ambani, have already secured GMPCS licenses. Furthermore, Jeff Bezos’ ‘Project Kuiper‘ is poised to enter the Indian market, intensifying competition in the satellite broadband sector.

For Mukesh Ambani, warding off foreign competition in satellite broadband will further bolster his position, as his company, Reliance Jio, already reigns supreme with 439 million telecom users, making it the market leader, and an impressive 8 million wired broadband connections, securing a 25% market share.

Starlink has advocated against spectrum auctions in India, instead advocating for license assignments in line with global practices. They argue that spectrum is a shared resource and that auctions might impose geographical limitations, driving up costs. This stance has been articulated in public letters released by the Indian government in June.

In contrast, Reliance has taken a different stance, urging the government to conduct an auction. They contend that foreign satellite service providers could offer voice and data services, challenging traditional telecom players, and, therefore, an auction is essential to ensure a level playing field.

Starlink’s perspective on auctions aligns with that of Amazon’s Project Kuiper and OneWeb.

Notably, Starlink, a subsidiary of Elon Musk‘s SpaceX aerospace enterprise, faced early challenges upon entering the Indian market in 2021. The telecom ministry chastised the company for accepting advance payments from subscribers before obtaining the necessary license. At that juncture, Starlink had garnered over 5,000 pre-orders for its devices in India, collecting $99 from each customer. In compliance with government directives, the company initiated the process of refunding those who had made payments.