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Elon Musk’s satcom firm Starlink may soon get approval from Centre: Report | World News


The government is reportedly expediting the processing of Elon Musk-owned Starlink’s application for a satellite communication (satcom) licence, despite unresolved concerns such as its connections with US security agencies. According to a report in the Economic Times, the Elon Musk-owned company may receive “conditional approval” based on the commitments it has made.

This development coincides with Musk’s upcoming visit to India later this month to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during which plans for a Tesla factory are expected to be unveiled.

An internal committee of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is currently reviewing the Starlink application. However, due to outstanding issues, including Starlink’s collaboration with American intelligence agencies, the company may only be granted conditional approval, as reported by ET, citing sources.

The Digital Communication Commission (DCC), an inter-ministerial panel and the highest decision-making body of the DoT, is likely to address the Starlink case, the report suggested. The DoT secretary chairs this panel, which also includes secretaries from the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, as well as the CEO of NITI Aayog.

The primary unresolved issue revolves around the necessity for Starlink to provide clarity on its ownership structure, including any investments or contracts from US security agencies, the report added.

Starlink had submitted its application for the global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCS) license in October 2022.

Competitors such as Eutelsat OneWeb, backed by Bharti Enterprises, and Reliance Jio’s satcom venture, already hold GMPCS permits. Amazon, led by Jeff Bezos, has also applied for a licence for its Project Kuiper satellite broadband initiative.

Previously, Starlink had responded to inquiries regarding investments from entities in neighbouring countries like China and Pakistan, stating that none of its investors hailed from nations sharing a land border with India, a declaration accepted by the government.

Since 2020, prior government approval has been mandated for investments from countries sharing a land border with India. Additionally, foreign investors are required to disclose complete details of their shareholding to the government.

This marks Starlink’s second attempt to establish a presence in the Indian satcom market. In 2022, the company was compelled to refund pre-booking fees to applicants in the country after the Department of Telecommunications instructed it to first secure regulatory approvals.

Currently, Starlink operates 5,600 active satellites, with plans to launch tens of thousands more to enhance transmission speeds and bolster internet capabilities worldwide. Once fully deployed, the network aims to compete with telecom providers utilising larger and higher-orbit satellites stationed over specific locations.

India’s satellite communications market is in its early stages, but holds significant potential, particularly in rural and remote areas. According to an EY-ISpA report, India’s space economy is projected to reach $13 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual rate of 6 per cent from nearly $9.6 billion in 2020.

First Published: Apr 13 2024 | 10:07 AM IST


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