E-commerce giant Amazon is now eyeing India’s satellite communications market and has started discussions with the country’s space and telecom departments to gain regulatory approvals.
Amazon’s entry will further intensify competition in the country’s satellite communications space which has already attracted Elon Musk’s SpaceX and UK government and Bharti-backed OneWeb.
India’s Economic Times reported that Amazon would soon approach the Department of Space and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to “discuss modalities, authorisations, permits, landing rights and satellite bandwidth leasing costs.”
Under its global space internet initiative, Project Kuiper, Jeff Bezos-led Amazon is investing over $10 billion to build a constellation of 3,236 low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
“…talks with the DoS and Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will happen on the necessary regulatory approvals to bring Amazon’s high-speed broadband services to India via its Project Kuiper satellite constellation as part of the global launch,” the publication quoted a person as saying.
India’s DoS is the sole authority that gives landing rights for downlinking signals of foreign satellites.
Market watchers told the publication that Amazon’s entry into the country’s satellite communications space might bring down the cost of satellite internet services. As per estimates, satellite internet service is 30 times more expensive than 4G mobile broadband in the country.
The report said satellite broadband is currently priced at around $15-$20 per GB in India, 22-30 times higher than $0.68 per GB for mobile data.
Analysts believe that satellite-based broadband services are expected to remain significantly more expensive than wireless and wired broadband in India. The country is among the 30-odd countries globally that continue to limit access to satellite services.
OneWeb and SpaceX are planning to launch their respective satellite broadband services in India by mid-2022. According to its website, SpaceX has already listed several Indian locations where services will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Anil Prakash, director-general, the Satcom Industry Association (SIA-India), told the publication that the entry of all three companies could create healthy competition in India, resulting in more affordable services in the country. The entry, he said, will “help connect the unconnected, especially when the Indian government is backing LEO constellations for delivering mass satellite connectivity in rural and remote regions.”
India’s telecom regulator, TRAI, recently sought views of the satellite industry stakeholders on ways to make satellite communications affordable and to attract investment into space. As per the TRAI, the cost of satellite-based services is on the higher side in the country, due to which end-users have not widely adopted it.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) already said that the current licensing framework of DoT for satellite-based services has limitations with respect to the proposed satellite-based low bit-rate services.