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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Elon Musk’s SpaceX hints at India ambitions for Starlink’s satellite internet

SpaceX responded to a consultation paper of the TRAI, which hints at the company's ambitions to bring its Starlink, its broadband space internet service to India.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 19, 2020 10:26:21 am
spacex falcon rocket, spacex satellite, spacex satellite internet, spacex internet speed, spacex internet beta testing, spacex internet project, spacex kate ticeIn initial tests of Starlink, the team has been collecting latency data and performing standard speed tests of the system (Source: SpaceX/Twitter)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been working on bringing internet from space with Starlink, which will use satellites in the lower Earth orbit for this task. Now, there’s speculation that Starlink might have plans for India as the company has also responded to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) consultation paper regarding a roadmap to “Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband.”

SpaceX’s response to TRAI’s paper was first highlighted by Medianama, and the PDF for the same can be found on TRAI’s website as well. TRAI put out the paper back in August 2020, and as is typical in such consultations, it expects responses from concerned parties. It is in this context that SpaceX has also made a submission.

The submission is made by Patricia Cooper, Vice President, Satellite Government Affairs at SpaceX. In the submission, Cooper notes, “Starlink’s high-capacity, high-speed, low-latency satellite network will advance the goal of delivering broadband connectivity in the near term to all Indians, particularly those without access now or in the near-term to broadband services traditionally available only to customers in urban and suburban areas.”

Her response also states that SpaceX’s solution would get rid of many of the high-costs associated with traditional wired broadband.

The response reads, “SpaceX does not require expensive ‘last-mile’ fiber lines in order to deliver reliable high-speed broadband. In fact, the ‘last-mile’ for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite system consists of the Ku-band connection from the consumer’s home directly to a satellite in orbit, entirely eliminating the largest cost inhibitor to near-term universal broadband coverage in India.” In its letter to TRAI, SpaceX has also asked for “blanket” licensing tools and a “band-splitting” model that will lead to private telecom operators in India to share the spectrum.

However, there is uncertainty over whether SpaceX’s Starlink will be introduced in India or not because of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) draft (Spacecom) that was floated last month.It is expected to replace the existing Satellite Communication Policy with the Space-Based Communication Policy of India. The guidelines in the draft bar foreign companies from introducing their satellite-based broadband in India.

What is Starlink and how does it plan to provide internet from space?

With the launch of 60 more satellites in September, SpaceX has been able to put a total of more than 700 satellites in Earth’s orbit. With Starlink, SpaceX aims to launch close to 12,000 satellites into the lower orbits and these will offer broadband coverage. The idea is to provide high-speed internet to places where it has not been accessible before and at a reasonable price. During the launch, SpaceX claimed that with the help of these satellites they have been able to get download speeds which are more than 100Mbps during beta testing.

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