Updated: January 17, 2022 7:50:38 am
State-owned Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) has completed a pilot project offering satellite-based internet services in hilly and difficult-to-access areas in Arunachal Pradesh. The pilot project is now likely to be rolled out in other states of the northeast, a senior telecom ministry official said.
A decision on the commercial roll-out of the project and the tariffs of the packages for the customer is likely to be taken after the test project is completed in more states, the official said.
“The costs are likely to be very reasonable, keeping in mind the government’s aim of extending the reach of internet to as many people as possible. The revenue shortfall for the implementing agencies, whether government or private, is likely to be met from the USOF (universal service obligation fund).”
USOF, which is raised from a Universal Access Levy (UAL), is applicable on all telecom licence holders. It came into effect from April 1, 2002 and mandated that all telecom service providers must pay a percentage of their revenue into the USOF. Of the 8 per cent adjusted gross revenue, 5 per cent goes into the USOF, while the rest goes into the Central exchequer.
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At present, the USOF is roughly Rs 60,000 crore.
BBNL, which is the implementing agency for BharatNet, has planned to provide satellite-based internet connectivity to 7,000 gram panchayats and sites that are remote and inaccessible or where it is not feasible to lay and maintain optical fibre cables. Of these, about 4,000 have been commissioned in various parts of the country, the official said.
In order to cover all the 7,000 sites planned for satellite-based internet service, four satellite gateways with two high throughput satellites have been planned under the BharatNet project.
The satellite-based internet service offering by BBNL is likely to compete directly with the offerings planned by Bharti Group’s One Web, Amazon’s Project Kuiper and Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet Services.
Though these companies are yet to launch either pilot projects or commercial services in India, they have been launching a constellation of low-earth orbit satellites, which will be used to provide internet connectivity in rural and remote areas.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk had earlier this year, in a tweet, said the Starlink internet service, being offered by his company, would soon complete its set-up and start offering commercial internet services to users as early as 2022, while OneWeb also plans to launch high-speed internet services in the country by mid-2022.
The Bharti group-backed company plans to have a constellation of 648 low-earth-orbit satellites as part of its global plan to deliver high speed internet services with low latency. “OneWeb has secured global priority spectrum rights and now successfully completed four launches and aims to offer high-speed internet from OneWeb satellites in India by mid-2022,” it had said in a statement this year.
In November this year, Starlink had registered its business in India under a 100 per cent-owned subsidiary, Starlink Satellite Communications Private Limited. The SpaceX divison had, in a presentation, said it aims to have 2,00,000 Starlink devices in India by December 2022, of which 80 per cent will be in rural districts. It had also started taking pre-orders for its services in India.
However, following an order of the Department of Telecommunications, the company has refunded all pre-orders and is said to be now working on getting the requisite approvals and licences.
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