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Govt words against Starlink for claiming provision of services without a licence

The Department of Telecommunications signalled on Friday that Starlink, the satellite internet division of billionaire Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, should first get a licence before offering services in India. The government has advised citizens against booking Starlink services as the satellite-internet provider does not comply with India’s regulatory framework.

“Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications, Government of India has pointed out that ‘Starlink Internet Services’ is not licenced to offer satellite-based internet services in India being advertised to the public,” the government said in an official statement.

The internet company had registered in India in November and had begun advertising, gearing to launch the services.

 

The company had launched a local unit, Starlink Satellite Communications Private Limited, according to a Reuters report. The local unit would help Starlink apply for licences to provide communication services ranging from broadband to satellite.

“Pleased to share that SpaceX now has a 100 percent owned subsidiary in India,” Sanjay Bhargava, Starlink India’s company director had said in a public post.

 

The Ministry of Communications also highlighted that Starlink has started pre-selling/booking of the satellite-based Starlink Internet Services in India. The same is also evident from the website of Starlink (www.starlink.com) wherein satellite-based internet services can be booked by users in Indian territory, it added.

Stating the issue, the Centre said, “For rendering satellite-based services in India, requisite licence(s) from Department of Telecommunications, Government of India are required. It is hereby informed to the public at large that the said company has not obtained any licence/authorization for rendering satellite-based internet services that are being booked on their website. Accordingly, the Government has asked the company to comply with the Indian regulatory framework for rendering the satellite-based communication services and refrain from booking/rendering the satellite internet services in India with immediate effect.”

“Given the fact that Starlink is not a licencee, the public is advised not to subscribe to Starlink services being advertised,” the government further stated.

Elon Musk’s Starlink is one of a growing number of companies launching small satellites as part of a low-Earth orbiting network in India. Starlink plans to “carry on the business of telecommunication services” including satellite broadband internet services, content storage and streaming, multi-media communication, among others, according to the company filing. It will also deal in devices such as satellite phones, network equipment, wired and wireless communication devices, as well as data transmission and reception equipment, it said.

SpaceX’s entry into the Indian market has been facing challenges ever since March 2021 when an industry body representing rivals like Amazon, Google, OneWeb (backed by Bharti Airtel), Facebook, among others wrote to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India )TRAI) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The application asked them to stop SpaceX from pre-selling its internet services in the country, claiming it does not have a valid licence to do so.

 

Starlink has already received over 5,000 pre-orders for its devices in India.

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