Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, is eager to expand his Starlink satellite broadband to India. However, Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man and the head of Reliance Jio, poses a formidable challenge.
What Happened? After a recent meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Musk expressed his keenness to launch Starlink in India, especially to benefit remote villages lacking high-speed internet services. However, he did not mention the conflict brewing with Ambani’s Reliance regarding the government’s distribution of satellite broadband spectrum.
Starlink advocates for the allocation of licenses rather than auctioning the spectrum, aligning with a global trend. The company argues that the spectrum is a natural resource to be shared among companies and that an auction could impose geographical restrictions, thereby raising costs.
In contrast, Reliance calls for an auction, stating in a public submission that it would ensure a level playing field as foreign satellite service providers could potentially offer voice and data services and compete with traditional telecom players.
This brewing rivalry sees Reliance persisting in urging the Indian government to auction satellite spectrum. Musk’s previous attempt to launch Starlink in India in 2021 faced regulatory roadblocks for taking bookings without a license.
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High Stakes: Ambani, who leads the telecom market in India with Reliance Jio, is keen to maintain his dominance and keep foreign competition at bay. Similarly, other companies like Amazon’s Project Kuiper and the British government-backed OneWeb share Starlink’s stance on spectrum allocation.
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