Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite network, aiming for a 2024 launch in India, might face delays in obtaining its license due to complications similar to those encountered by Verizon Communications in a previous case. This development could hinder Starlink’s timely entry into the Indian market.
What Happened? According to a report by the Economic Times, the primary issue causing the delay is the Indian government’s requirement for complete disclosure of ownership details. Starlink, however, has cited US privacy laws that restrict sharing ownership information of its parent company, SpaceX.
To comply with Indian regulations, Starlink has assured the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that none of its shareholders are from countries sharing a land border with India, a concern that previously arose during Verizon’s license application.
Verizon Communications India faced a similar challenge last year while renewing its Internet Service Provider (ISP) license. The discovery of shareholders from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Hong Kong, albeit holding less than one percent of the company, led the Indian government to advise Verizon to apply through the government approval route. This incident prompted the Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT) to amend the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy in 2020.
In light of the Verizon case, the DoT is now consulting with the DPIIT on whether to consider Starlink’s application, causing potential delays.
Why it matters? Starlink, which was expected to receive approval by the end of January 2024, faces competition from Eutelsat OneWeb and Reliance Jio‘s satcom venture, both of which have already secured licenses. Additionally, Amazon‘s Project Kuiper is also in the process of seeking permits from the Indian government.
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