In India, OneWeb scrambles ahead of its rivals

Yanitsa Boyadzhieva
By Yanitsa Boyadzhieva

Nov 22, 2023

Source: OneWeb

Source: OneWeb

  • Eutelsat OneWeb has been eagerly targeting the broadband services sector in India
  • It claims to be very close to the launch of commercial services following clearance from India’s space regulator
  • The move puts the company ahead in the fierce race to provide satellite-enabled broadband connectivity to India’s enormous population

Eutelsat OneWeb appears to be one step ahead in the fierce rivalry among satellite broadband service providers in India, having obtained what it claims is the first authorisation by the country’s space regulator to launch commercial services.

In a jaunty statement, the low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite provider noted that its local unit, OneWeb India, has been granted the necessary authorisations from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Center (IN-SPACe).

This is the second major clearance for the company after receiving the green light to become a broadband service provider from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). And it means that Eutelsat OneWeb will be allowed to launch commercial satellite broadband services in India as soon as it is granted the necessary spectrum from the government.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Bharti Group chairman and co-chair of Eutelsat Group (the parent company of Eutelsat OneWeb that was established with the merger between Eutelsat and OneWeb in September), described IN-SPACe’s decision as “a critical step forward to meet India’s ambition of providing internet connectivity for all”, adding that it is aligned with the government’s digitalisation plan dubbed Digital India. He confirmed that the company is “ready to deploy as soon as it receives the final spectrum authorisation to launch commercial services.”

Cyril Dujardin, co-general manager of connectivity at Eutelsat Group, explained that the approval from the space authority brings India “a significant step closer to providing high-speed connectivity to even the most remote locations.”

Highlighting its “existing strong position” in the Indian market, the satellite player noted that its local unit has also obtained, in principle, approval to establish and operate two gateways in the states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, which it said would “secure the provision of vital high-speed, low-latency internet connectivity to customers across India”.

The race in space

The landscape of the satellite-based broadband market is hotter than ever, as multiple players rush to offer connectivity services based on various types of satellites in a country of more than 1.4 billion people that has little in the way of fixed broadband infrastructure.

Aside from Eutelsat OneWeb, which has Indian telco giant Bharti Airtel as its local partner, SpaceX’s Starlink is eagerly trying to obtain a licence from DoT to provide connectivity services. Earlier this month, local newspaper The Indian Times reported that Starlink is on the verge of securing regulatory approval after satisfying the government with reassurances about data storage and transfer norms.

India’s biggest telco, Reliance Jio, is also eyeing a leading role in the satellite broadband market. Powered by a partnership with satellite giant SES, the telco recently demonstrated its “gigabit broadband” service, JioSpaceFiber, which uses a medium-earth orbit (MEO) constellation. The service has already been set up in four remote locations to show how satellite-based broadband services can enable connectivity anywhere, and thus close the digital gap.

Finally, tech giant Amazon is also associated with making a move in India, with domestic media reporting that the company anticipates working with the Indian government and local partners to provide “affordable broadband” across the country through its LEO satellite broadband initiative, Project Kuiper.

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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