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Amazon seeks regulatory approval for satellite communication services in India: report

Amazon’s possible entry into the telecom market comes at a time when telcos in India are pushing for the implementation of a network usage fee on online platforms for using their network infrastructure.

Amazon is seeking approval from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) to offer broadband-from-space services in the country, according to an Economic Times report. The report says that Amazon is also expected to apply to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for a global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCS) license. We have reached out to Amazon to confirm the news and the story will be updated once we receive a response. [The company neither confirmed nor denied the reports suggesting its entry into the Indian market.]

This isn’t the first time that news platforms have reported Amazon’s interest in offering access services. In September this year, reports came out stating that Amazon was planning on acquiring Vodafone Idea (Vi), only for Vi to later deny the same.  

Why it matters:

Recently there has been abundant discussion on network usage fees in India and in the EU. In both regions, telecom companies have been arguing that online platforms (such as Facebook and WhatsApp) should pay telcos a fee for causing a strain on their networks by receiving vast amounts of traffic. 

With Amazon entering the broadband service market, it would be interesting to see how this debate plays out. One must note that less than 1% of interconnection agreements (agreements between telcos for sending and receiving from each other’s networks) across the world are paid. So while telcos want OTTs to pay them, they don’t pay each other. This means that if Amazon sends data using its own network, it wouldn’t have to pay a network fee.

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Amazon extends into the satellite communication space:

In 2019, Amazon announced its satellite project Kuiper. Under this project, the company is building a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation meant to provide broadband service to unserved and underserved communities around the world. Project Kuiper was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in 2020, which allowed it to provide broadband services in the US. The company has also teamed up with Vodafone in Europe and Vodacom in Africa to help extend the two companies’ coverage of 4G/5G networks. In June Amazon’s Project Kuiper also responded to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) consultation on the assignment of spectrum for space-based communication services.

So far, the project has not started providing broadband services anywhere in the world. However, the collaborations and approvals as well as its participation in TRAI’s consultation signal that there might be some truth to it applying for regulatory approval in India as well.

Note: The story was updated on November 14, 2023 at 4:03 to reflect Amazon’s response.

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