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Tech, broadband companies in India oppose SpaceX’s Starlink India preorders: Report

SpaceX’s Starlink, a satellite broadband service run with a constellation of low earth orbit satellites, has spooked technology and satellite companies in India, which have have written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and ISRO to block the preorders, according to an India Today report.

In March, SpaceX’s Starlink, a satellite broadband service run with a constellation of low earth orbit satellites, opened pre-orders for India. A fully refundable US$99 (~Rs 7,265) has to be paid. Such a system isn’t new for Elon Musk-founded companies. Tesla, for instance, has taken several preorders from Indian customers, in spite of the fact that not a single car by the company has been sold directly by the company in the country.

However, the preorders have expressed their opposition to Starlink. A spokesperson for Broadband India Forum, which sent the letter to the authorities, declined to comment. The body’s membership includes big tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google, but also Hughes, a satellite communications provider that has a significant presence in India, with contracts to, among other things, provide satellite internet connectivity in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

The letter reportedly said that SpaceX was violating Indian regulations by requiring payment for a test phase of its satellite broadband service, and also by doing so when it has no ground stations or necessary licenses to carry out business. SpaceX says on its website that it envisions coverage in major Indian cities by mid-2022. SpaceX filed a regulatory submission to TRAI in 2020 — first reported by MediaNama — urging the regulator to enable satellite broadband connectivity in the country.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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