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India’s Jio Platforms Secures License to Launch Satellites Competing with Starlink

ByYasmeeta Oon

Jun 16, 2024

India’s Jio Platforms Secures License to Launch Satellites Competing with Starlink

Orbit Connect India, a collaborative venture between India’s Jio Platforms and Luxembourg-based SES, has received the green light from India’s space oversight agency to operate satellites over the country. This significant development marks a crucial step for Orbit Connect in its mission to provide gigabit fiber internet across India. The approval positions Orbit Connect as a formidable competitor to global satellite internet giants like Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper, both of which are vying to expand their reach into remote regions of the country.

Industry Players and Approvals

CompanyParent/Partner EntitiesApproval StatusInvestment Plans
Orbit Connect IndiaJio Platforms & SESApproved by space oversightHigh-speed internet
StarlinkSpaceXIn-principle approval; final vetting pendingExpanding global reach
KuiperAmazonYet to initiate applicationUS$10 billion investment
OneWebBharti Airtel (India arm)Approved by space oversightAcquisition by Bharti Airtel in 2021
InmarsatApproved by space oversightAwaiting Telecommunications Ministry approval
  • Orbit Connect India: Joint venture approved for satellite operations.
  • Starlink: Banned in 2021, now awaits final approval after in-principle nod from the Telecommunications Ministry.
  • Amazon’s Kuiper: Plans significant investment but yet to start the application process in India.
  • OneWeb: Secured initial approvals and aligns with Bharti Airtel for satellite services.
  • Inmarsat: Requires additional clearances from the Telecommunications Ministry.
Orbit Connect’s Competitive Landscape

Orbit Connect India is set to challenge established satellite internet providers like SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper. These companies are working towards enhancing internet connectivity in hard-to-reach areas globally, with significant interest in the Indian market due to its vast rural landscape and burgeoning internet demand.

Starlink, which faced a setback in 2021 when its services were banned in India for operating without a license, has made significant progress since then. The Elon Musk-led company has received provisional approval from India’s Telecommunications Ministry. However, it must still clear security vetting from the Home Affairs Ministry before launching its services in the country.

In contrast, Amazon’s Kuiper has announced a massive US$10 billion investment plan to develop its satellite internet services. Yet, it has not begun the application process in India, indicating that it might take longer to enter the market compared to its rivals.

The satellite internet sector is experiencing a surge in investor interest. According to industry reports, investments in satellite component and system manufacturing have skyrocketed. The average investment deal has climbed dramatically, reaching up to US$30 million this year from last year’s range of US$2 to US$7 million. This influx of capital is expected to drive innovation and expand the capabilities of satellite internet services.

Orbit Connect’s entry into the market is significant, not only for its potential to provide high-speed internet but also for its strategic partnership between Jio Platforms and SES. This collaboration combines Jio’s extensive local network and customer base with SES’s expertise in satellite technology, promising a robust and comprehensive internet solution.

Gaining approval for satellite operations in India involves navigating a complex regulatory landscape. Companies must secure permissions from multiple agencies, each with its own set of requirements and standards. Orbit Connect, Starlink, and OneWeb have all achieved initial approvals from the space oversight agency. However, they need additional clearances from the Telecommunications Ministry, particularly concerning spectrum allocation and operational protocols.

Inmarsat, another player in the satellite communications field, has also received preliminary approval for its satellite operations. Like its peers, it awaits further permissions from the Telecommunications Ministry to commence its services.

In a noteworthy development, Bharti Airtel, one of Jio’s primary competitors in the Indian telecommunications market, acquired the India arm of OneWeb in 2021. This acquisition underscores the strategic importance of satellite internet services and Bharti Airtel’s commitment to expanding its presence in this emerging market.

The approval of Orbit Connect and other satellite internet providers marks a new chapter in India’s digital expansion, particularly in enhancing connectivity in underserved areas. However, these companies face several challenges, including regulatory hurdles, the need for significant infrastructure investment, and competition from both domestic and international players.

Moreover, the success of these ventures will depend on their ability to offer competitive pricing, reliable services, and seamless integration with existing internet infrastructures. As the market evolves, we can expect more developments and strategic moves from key players, each aiming to capture a share of the rapidly growing satellite internet market in India.

  • Orbit Connect India’s approval positions it as a key player in the Indian satellite internet landscape.
  • Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper are major competitors, each with unique regulatory and operational challenges.
  • Rising investor interest and substantial investments are driving growth and innovation in the satellite internet sector.
  • Regulatory approvals are critical for operational success in India’s tightly controlled telecommunications environment.
  • The strategic moves by companies like Bharti Airtel highlight the growing importance of satellite internet in the broader telecommunications industry.

As Orbit Connect and its competitors navigate these complexities, the future of satellite internet in India looks promising, with the potential to transform how millions of Indians access the internet, especially in remote and underserved regions.

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Featured Image courtesy of DALL-E by ChatGPT

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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