The skies above India are crowding up as companies race to roll out satellite internet in the country. Major companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon’s Kuiper Project and the Bharti Airtel-backed OneWeb project are competing to become the biggest names in satellite internet in India.
What is satellite internet?
Satellite internet is a broadband internet service that uses radio waves to transmit the internet from an ISP hub to your satellite receiver dish which is attached with a modem to provide internet access. Some like SpaceX use lasers instead of radio waves to transmit data. The radio waves are reflected in the receiver by geosynchronous low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, that are in a fixed position in the sky. The data is transmitted to the satellite.
Satellite internet works mostly like regular internet, except that the tangle of cables becomes redundant.
The next big step?
Satellite internet could be the next big step in internet connectivity. Once a fleet of satellites is in orbit, companies would only need to set up the satellite receiver and modem to provide access to the internet from almost any corner of the world.
No cables or other ground-based infrastructure would be needed at the customer’s access point. It would stand to revolutionise internet access the same way that satellite direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting services did for television access in India.
For a country like India, where providers would otherwise need to cover vast grounds with ground-based infrastructure, satellite internet provides an easy way to provide internet access to rural areas.
Who are the major players?
Three major players are gearing up to compete in the sector in India. UK-based OneWeb, of which the Bharti Airtel group is the biggest shareholder, will become the first private company to launch its services in India. Sunil Mittal had recently said that the company would start providing its services by 2022. The company has already launched 322 LEO satellites into space, with a proposed fleet size of 650 satellites.
Other competitors are SpaceX’s Starlink project, which has already starting pre-orders for its services in India. The company is still in the preliminary process of getting the proper regulatory clearances here. SpaceX is reportedly in the process of seeking approval from the government departments to launch its satellite broadband service in India.
Finally, Amazon’s Kuiper Project is also looking to enter the Indian satellite market. The company is also reportedly in talks with various government departments to get the all-clear for its services.
Other competitors include Hughes and Tata’s Nelco.
"India is at the cusp of being a global hub for increased use of satellite communication, which can attract billions of dollars as FDI, generate huge employment, and enhance GDP growth. Close to $40 billion private investments have already come in from major satellite broadband companies, including Airtel (OneWeb) and Tata (Nelco) in India, and SpaceX (Starlink), Amazon (Project Kuiper), and Hughes, among many others in the global arena," Anil Prakash, Director General, Satcom Industry Association (SIA-India), told The Economic Times.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)