Bharti-backed OneWeb gets licence to offer VSAT-backhaul to telcos

OneWeb VSAT backhaul India
Image courtesy OneWeb

Bharti Global-backed OneWeb has received its first licence from India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT), allowing it to offer satellite-based backhaul through VSAT to telecom operators. The licence will also pave the way for building two landing stations in the country.

The Global Mobile Personal Communication Services and Very Small Aperture Terminal (GMPCS/VSAT) license has been granted for a period of 20 years.

However, the telecom department has asked the telecom regulator, TRAI, for its recommendations if the same license can be used for general satellite-based communications services in India, as per a report by Indian business news channel CNBC-Awaz.

OneWeb has already identified land for building two satellite in-country ground stations. One station will be set up in northern India, while the other will come up in southern India. Both stations will be ready by February-March 2022.

OneWeb, however, will need satellite bandwidth landing rights from the Department of Space (DoS), which is likely by month-end.

OneWeb, backed by the Bharti Group and the UK government, plans to roll out satellite internet services in India from June 2022, Bharti Enterprises and OneWeb chairman Sunil Mittal recently informed the media.

After receiving the license, OneWeb is expected to lease a “sizable chunk” of its satellite bandwidth capacity to offer cellular backhaul connectivity services to Bharti Airtel, allowing the telecom operator to offer better 4G coverage in India’s rural and remote areas.

The Indian government had in July allowed Indian telecom operators to use satellite-based backhaul through VSAT terminal to provide mobile data connectivity services in remote and far-flung regions of the country. Providing stable connectivity has been challenging in these areas as it is challenging to lay optical fibre networks to connect mobile towers.

The country’s telecom regulator had previously recommended usage of satellite-based backhaul by telcos in remote areas

OneWeb, which is putting up a low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation as part of its global space internet initiative, will also provide its satellite-based connectivity services to India’s armed forces camped in the Himalayas, shipping, railways and forest departments, Mittal recently said.

OneWeb, which marked its entry into satellite business in November 2020, plans to launch 648 low earth orbit (Leo) satellites by June 2022 to construct a global satellite constellation.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos-led Amazon are also eyeing India’s satellite communications market. This happens at a time when Indian telecom operators are locking horns with satellite companies over the allocation of spectrum in the 28 GHz band for satellite communications services.

Mittal previously clarified that OneWeb would operate on a B2B model in India, offering its satellite bandwidth to telcos for cellular backhaul in remote regions, and also to various industries and government bodies. Elon Musk’s SpaceX, on the other hand, plans to offer Starlink satellite communication services to retail customers. According to its website, SpaceX has already listed several Indian locations where services will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

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