SpaceX Hints at India’s Starlink release by urging the government to start approving satellite technologies

SpaceX, an American aerospace company owned by Elon Musk, has asked the Government of India to initiate satellite broadband technology approvals. The move aims to extend the satellite Internet constellation Starlink of SpaceX to the nation. In a filing lodged with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), SpaceX expressed its interest in launching Starlink in India. By the end of 2021, the company said it was on track with constellation deployments for continual Starlink coverage across India.

Patricia Cooper, SpaceX Vice President for Satellite Government Affairs, responding to a TRAI consultation paper, said that new technologies such as Startlink could require updated rules, policies and regulations to be considered. She also recommended proposals, including the promotion of technology-neutral broadband definitions and the allocation of already-allocated satellite system frequencies.

“Starlink’s early performance tests demonstrate that NGSO (Non-geostationary) satellite technology is clearly capable of meeting not only the current broadband definition, but also those increased criteria recommended by TRAI,” Cooper wrote in the filing dated September 21, which has just been brought into focus by MediaNama.

While answering TRAI’s questions, SpaceX also noted that policies restricting or deterring the use of advanced satellite technologies such as Starlink could contribute to higher fixed broadband costs and slower speeds for existing broadband services. In addition the company stated that land-based fixed wired and wireless technologies had a “inherent cost of infrastructure based on a cost per kilometer” that made it difficult to scale.

“SpaceX does not require expensive ‘last-mile’ fibre lines in order to deliver reliable high-speed broadband,” Cooper said.

SpaceX also requested “blanket licensing” to allow multiple identical broadband satellite terminals and urged the use of Ka-band frequencies, including Starlink, used by fixed satellite service systems. Similarly, the regulator was asked to consider the potential of satellite operations at frequencies in the V- and E-bands.

SpaceX recommended that TRAI prefer a band-splitting model among NGSO satellite operators on spectrum allocation.

In May of last year, SpaceX successfully deployed the initial 60 Starlink Internet-beaming satellites in space. By launching 60 additional satellites, the company also expanded its footprint in satellite broadband space in February. However, Amazon, which announced an investment of over $10 billion (approximately Rs. 74,487 crores) in a satellite broadband plan at the end of July, is likely to face a tough fight.