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As govt seeks to relax satellite licenses, TRAI puts out consultation paper

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday put out a consultation paper to figure out how to make low-bitrate applications of satellite technology — routine things like GPS tracking, steering farm equipment, monitoring remote transmission towers — more accessible for interested private players. In a letter to TRAI, the Department of Telecommunications pointed out that existing licenses either had little uptake, or could be prohibitively priced if a lot of receivers are needed to be installed on the ground.

Among ways of relaxing satellite license norms, the consultation paper asks if foreign satellite bandwidth may be leased for low bitrate applications.

Recently, the Department of Space and ISRO came out with a space communication policy that aims to make it easier for private players to leverage the technology for uses like internet in remote areas. This potential deregulation of satellite licenses for some emerging technologies seems to fit that bill.

Summary of questions

Here’s what the TRAI is asking in the consultation paper:

  1. Right now, satellite for IoT can be provided either as a low-power wide area network (LPWAN, which allows connectivity with satellite constellations), or in a direct-to-satellite model. Should both models be permitted for IoT connectivity, and is there any other model that can be used for this purpose?
  2. Should geostationary, medium as well as low earth orbit satellite be permitted for low bitrate satellite connectivity?
  3. Which frequency bands should be allowed for satellite communications? Some or any of L, S, C, Ku, Ka bands, or all of them?
  4. Do we need a new licensing framework for low bitrate satellite connectivity? If so, then please provide information on what kind of entry fee, license fee, spectrum charge, bank guarantees are not needed. Alternatively, can existing frameworks be amended?
  5. Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite service under the Unified License permits providing voice and non-voice messaging and data. Should this be expanded to allow IoT connectivity?
  6. Should commercial VSAT Closed User Group services be opened up to allow any service? And should the CUG requirement for such services (where customers are required to be a part of a closed group, like a company) be done away with?
  7. What should be the framework for captive licensees who want to obtain a license for their sole use? Should existing licenses related in this regard be reworked to include satellite-based low bitrate services? If so, what should be the charging mechanism?
  8. Should INSAT MSS-R service (from the Indian national satellite system) authorization be modified to allow satellite based connectivity?
  9. Should National Long Distance service providers be allowed to provide satellite based IoT services?
  10. Should licensees be allowed to obtain satellite bandwidth from foreign satellites to provide low bitrate applications and IoT connectivity?
  11. “In case, the satellite transponder bandwidth has been obtained from foreign satellites, what conditions should be imposed on licensees, including regarding establishment of downlink Earth station in India? Please justify your answer.”
  12. How can satellite services be made affordable?
  13. Is the current way of obtaining satellite licenses convenient? Is there any scope for simplifying processes?
  14. Any other observations?

This consultation is currently due to end on April 9, with a counter-comment stage scheduled to end on April 23. 

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