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Starlink in India: GoI gives in-principle nod, DoT expediting process ahead of Elon Musk’s visit

Elon Musk’s ambitious Starlink satellite communication project in India is developing significantly as it gets one step closer to a potential launch. The Department of Telecommunications, headed by Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, has tentatively approved Starlink.

The approval comes after nearly three and a half years of evaluation, according to a report by The Times of India. The report also suggests that although the minister is still considering the approval, the DoT is trying to expedite all clearance processes and plans to finish the process before Elon Musk’s two-day visit to India.

Musk will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit, possibly about India’s Tesla and Starlink operations.

According to sources cited in the report, Starlink’s approval awaits a final review by Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is considering specific security issues that may come up because of Starlink.

So far, the commercial aspects of Starlink’s proposed operations in India have been scrutinized thoroughly. These include avenues like foreign investment, financial standing, etc. So far, the report says, authorities have found that Starlink’s proposal meets all regulations and compliances set forth with official guidelines.

Specific technical requirements have also been evaluated to see if they align with licensing conditions, with Starlink submitting ownership declarations.

Despite its benefits, Starlink’s massive deployment of satellites has raised concerns about its impact on the night sky, astronomical observations, and wildlife behavior. There are also issues around data security and controlling connectivity.

As for security, the Government of India is seeking assurances from Starlink that data transmitted over Indian airspace and waters will only terminate at local gateways and that satellite data beams will not be redirected to foreign destinations. Starlink has reportedly provided assurances that these concerns will be addressed.

Once Minister Vaishnaw approves it, Starlink will get the Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) services license required to offer any satellite communication service in India.

Other companies like OneWeb, backed by Bharti Airtel’s Sunil Mittal, and Jio, in partnership with Luxembourg-based SES, have already obtained GMPCS licenses. However, spectrum allocation and pricing details have yet to be declared, as finalization by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is still awaited.

For those unaware, Starlink is a division of SpaceX that provides high-speed internet access globally using a constellation of thousands of satellites in low-earth orbit. This service mainly benefits rural and remote areas without broadband or fiber-based internet.

To access Starlink, customers need a Starlink dish kit, a WiFi router, a power supply, some cables, and a base. The self-orienting dish connects quickly with a clear view of the sky, and the service can be managed via the Starlink app.

Starlink offers services in several countries, including the United States, Europe, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South America, Asia, and Africa.

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