Is Elon Musk’s Starlink finally coming to India?

By:
on Apr 16, 2024
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  • After a prolonged three-and-a-half-year wait, Starlink's prospects in India are looking brighter.
  • Starlink has met the necessary technical requirements stipulated in the license conditions.
  • The entry of Starlink is expected to challenge existing service providers like OneWeb and Jio.

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In a significant development for Elon Musk’s satellite internet venture, Starlink, the company has received in-principle approval from India’s telecom ministry, according to a report published in The Economic Times.

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This clearance comes just days ahead of Musk’s highly anticipated meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, potentially heralding a new era of high-speed internet connectivity for the Indian market.

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After a prolonged three-and-a-half-year wait, Starlink’s prospects in India are looking brighter.

The approval now rests with Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, with a final nod from the home ministry still pending due to security concerns, sources quoted in The Economic Times said.

They said the approval process focused extensively on commercial aspects such as foreign investment and the net worth of the venture, aligning it with official guidelines.

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Technical and ownership issues were key hurdles during the evaluation.

Starlink has met the necessary technical requirements stipulated in the license conditions.

Furthermore, the government’s concern regarding foreign ownership has been alleviated with Starlink’s recent declaration, ensuring that no stakeholders are from countries sharing a land border with India—a critical security measure.

The telecom ministry has stipulated strict mandates to safeguard the interests of Indian users.

These include the requirement that all KYC details and customer information remain within India.

The government has emphasized that satellite data traffic over Indian airspace and waters must terminate at local gateways only, ensuring data sovereignty.

Starlink has proposed solutions to ensure that data beams from their satellites will exclusively land in India, addressing concerns about data ending up in foreign territories due to satellite movement.

What happens after final approval?

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Once final approvals are secured, Starlink will be issued a Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) services license.

This license is crucial for the company to begin offering satellite communication services within India.

The entry of Starlink is expected to challenge existing service providers like OneWeb, backed by Bharti Airtel’s Sunil Mittal, and Mukesh Ambani’s Jio, which is also developing its satellite services.

Roadmap for Starlink’s entry into India:

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In-principle approval: Achieved from the telecom ministry, addressing major regulatory hurdles.

Final security vetting: Pending from the home ministry, focusing on the security implications of foreign stakeholder influence and data sovereignty.

KYC and data security: Implementation of strict measures to ensure that all user data and KYC information are retained within India.

Technical compliance: Assurance that all technical aspects conform to the Indian licensing conditions.

Ownership declaration: Submission and acceptance of a declaration by Starlink confirming no ownership links to countries sharing a land border with India.

GMPCS license issuance: Awaited final approval from Ashwini Vaishnaw for the issuance of the GMPCS license, enabling Starlink to operate satellite communication services in India.

Operational setup: Establishment of local gateways and infrastructure to comply with the data landing and security requirements.

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