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Reliance Jio makes headway in its satellite communication plans: Report

Jio in 2022 had partnered with SES, a global satellite-based content connectivity solutions provider based in Luxembourg, to provide satellite-based broadband services in India.

Reliance Jio could receive the landing rights and market access authorizations from the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) this month, taking it one step ahead in providing satellite communication (satcom) services; the Economic Times reported on January 2. Back in 2022, Jio had partnered with SES, a global satellite-based content connectivity solutions provider based in Luxembourg, to provide satellite-based broadband services in India. It is one of the many players including Bharti Airtel-backed OneWeb, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, and Space X’s Starlink that is seeking regulatory approvals for satellite communication in the country.

Of these, the only one that has received all necessary approvals is OneWeb. Reports suggest that Amazon’s Project Kuiper is also in the process of obtaining approvals. In November 2023, it was reported that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) was analyzing Amazon’s application for a global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCS) permit and in October, it was reported to be seeking IN-SPACe approvals. Note that both IN-SPACe and DoT approvals are necessary for providing satellite communication services.

Is Jio vying for a first-mover advantage?

Earlier this year when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) conducted a consultation on space-based communication, Reliance Jio submitted that there is a need for an auction of spectrum in the satellite communication space, just like what is currently in practice for terrestrial communication services.

This was in direct contrast to the demands made by other players including OneWeb, Airtel, Starlink, and Project Kuiper, all of which had demanded administrative allocation. Those in favor of administrative allocation have pointed out that auctions would artificially restrict competition and dissuade market entry in the satellite communication sector with spectrum access being limited to only those that make the highest bid.

According to the latest telecom data, Jio has the majority share of both the wired and wireless broadband communication market. Given its domination of the terrestrial telecom market and the competition concerns raised by other players, one has to wonder whether the reason Jio suggested auctions is to maintain its dominant market position as satellite broadband services start being rolled out in the country.

Despite Jio’s demand for auction, the recently passed Telecom Act has gone ahead with administrative allocation, which signals that more players could soon enter the Indian satcom market.

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