India’s richest billionaires are fast catching up while Elon Musk struggles for satellite broadband licence

India’s richest billionaires are fast catching up while Elon Musk struggles for satellite broadband licence
Sunil Mittal and Mukesh Ambani.BCCL
  • Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio has formed a joint venture with Luxembourg based SES.
  • Sunil Mittal-owned Airtel has entered into a JV with Hughes Communications.
  • The Tata Group is reportedly in talks with Telesat’s Lightspeed brand.
  • Check out the latest news and updates on Business Insider.
Elon Musk’s Starlink has also been trying to enter the Indian market but was asked to refund the pre-orders that it had accepted as the company has not secured a license to operate in the second largest telecom market in the world.

In the meantime, India’s biggest billionaires like Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Mittal have found their respective partners to launch their own satellite broadband services.

Reliance Jio, owned by Ambani, has formed a joint venture (JV) with SES, a satellite-based content and connectivity solutions provider from Luxembourg. In January this year, Airtel had announced a JV with Hughes Communications to offer satellite-based broadband services in the country.

Nelco, an arm of the multi-billion dollar Tata Group, is also reportedly in talks with Canadian firm Telesat’s Lightspeed brand to offer satellite broadband services in the country by 2024.

Another player that is looking to enter the satellite-based broadband services market in India is Amazon as part of Project Kruiper satellite constellation.


What is satellite broadband?

Satellite broadband uses satellites orbiting the earth to provide internet services to people using a dish. Unlike traditional broadband services, satellite broadband does not require users to get a wired connection from the operators.

This becomes useful especially in those areas that do not have broadband infrastructure such as rural areas. Satellite broadband also helps in tracking vehicles, generating alerts for natural disasters, and in remotely managing power grids to name a few use cases.

Satellite broadband services are already available in countries like the US and UK. Elon Musk’s Starlink is currently testing its services in 25 countries, including the US, UK, Canada and France among others.

In addition to Starlink, the UK also has other players such as OneWeb, which is partially owned by Airtel.

In November 2021, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had issued a consultation paper on establishing a licensing framework for satellite gateways which are required to offer broadband services using satellites. The paper had sought suggestions on license fee, entry fee, bank guarantees and other information such as operational charges.

Jio Satellite Communications, Jio’s satellite unit had applied for a global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCS) license to offer satellite-based broadband services in India earlier this month. Airtel’s OneWeb, had also applied for a GMPCS license in 2021.


Airtel Xstream Premium streaming service launched in India, priced at ₹149 per month

Airtel and Hughes form joint venture, will offer satellite broadband service in India

Elon Musk’s Starlink faces its first setback in India even before launch