India’s telecom department has scrapped a key levy – so-called NOCC charges – on satellite service providers with an aim to make satellite-based broadband services more affordable in the country.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has amended its unified licence conditions so that satcom operators no longer have to pay network operation & control centre (NOCC) charges for hiring satellite transponder capacity. NOCC charges amount to $27,134 per transponder per annum, regardless of the frequency band of operation or nature of satellite capacity.
The DoT said that all holders of GMPCS (global mobile personal communications by satellite services), commercial/captive VSAT and NLD permits, involved in space-based operations, would no longer be levied NOCC charges, effective April 1, 2022.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended abolishing NOCC charges last year, because it felt that the levy was contributing to higher prices that hinder takeup of satellite communications services, which TRAI sees as key to providing coverage to India’s remotest and inaccessible areas.
Satellite broadband providers welcomed the amendment and said it was a step in the right direction. In a statement, Lt Gen AK Bhatt, DG of Indian Space Association (ISpA) thanked the DoT for dropping the NOCC charges, as well as TRAI for recommending the move.
“We are hopeful that it is just the beginning and the first of many reform measures for the sector in line with the vision of the Honorable Prime Minister to grow the Indian Space Industry,” he said.
“We also look forward to the continued support of the Department of Space and IN-SPACe to make India’s space sector an attractive investment destination,” he added. The Indian National Space Promotion & Authorisation Center (IN-SPACe) is a central regulatory body mandated to attract private capital into the space sector.
Bharti-backed OneWeb recently received a GMPCS licence from the Indian government and has now sought the DoT’s nod to set up the gateways. OneWeb is setting up a global constellation of 648 low earth orbit (LEO) satellites to launch high-speed, low-latency satcom services in rural and remote regions globally, including in India.
Reliance Jio has also applied for the GMPCS licence. Its parent company, Jio Platforms, recently joined hands with Luxembourg’s SES to deliver satellite broadband services across India.