Starlink Plans Services In India As SpaceX Breaks Launch Record

SpaceX’s Starlink division is to apply early next year for a commercial licence to provide broadband and other services in India, its country head has said.

“We hope to have applied for a commercial license on or before 31st January 2022 (unless we hit some major roadblock),” Sanjay Bhargava said in a LinkedIn post.

If the company is able to launch services in April it is aiming to have 200,000 Starlink devices operating in India by the end of 2022, according to a presentation posted by Bhargava.

The company has previously said it expects 80 percent of its services in the country to be in rural areas.

Image credit: SpaceX

Satellite broadband

Bhargava’s announcement comes a week after the Indian government notified Starlink to stop advertising its services in the country, as it isn’t licensed to offer services there.

The government also warned Indian citizens not to submit pre-orders for Starlink’s planned service.

SpaceX had previously been taking pre-orders for a beta version of Starlink’s satellite-based broadband for a refundable deposit of $99 (£74). Bhargava previously said the company had taken more than 5,000 pre-orders from India.

The company stopped accepting pre-orders following the government’s notice, “pending regulatory approval”.

Starlink has applied for a permit launch a pilot test of its services, according to local media reports, but for a commercial launch is likely to require a GMPCS (global mobile personal communication by satellite) licence.

A stack of flat Starlink satellites prepares to deploy in Earth orbit. Image credit: SpaceX

Emerging tech

In March an industry group backed by Starlink’s competitors wrote to regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) asking them to stop Starlink from pre-selling its services.

Starlink competes with OneWeb, jointly owned by the British government and India’s Bharti Enterprises, Amazon’s Kuiper and Tata Group’s Nelco and Telesat for providing satellite-based broadband services.

SpaceX and OneWeb are planning to launch services in India next year. In November Starlink registered a local unit, Starlink Satellite Communications Private Ltd, paving the way for it to begin doing business in the country.

SpaceX launched 48 Starlink satellites into orbit last week, bringing its total constellation size to more than 1,750.

Launch record

It plans to launch up to 42,000 satellites to deliver broadband to 99 percent of the Earth’s population. Services are accessible via a router and a dish, using a Starlink app.

Last week’s Falcon 9 launch was SpaceX’s 27th of the year, breaking the company’s own launch record for the number of rockets sent into space in a single year. SpaceX launched 26 rockets in 2020.

The company has another six launches planned for 2021.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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