[the_ad id="83613"]

What India’s satcom industry wants from a new telecom bill


“Shipping, Ports, Waterways, Tolls, roads and Highways are increasingly blurring the lines between remote and near,” SIA-India, the Satcom Industry Association said in a submission to the Department of Telecommunications in September. “Space-based satellite services are critical, along with terrestrial connectivity.”

SIA’s members include satellite communications players like AsiaSat, Inmarsat and Viasat. Entrackr obtained a submission by SIA to the DoT on creating a new telecom framework through an RTI disclosure.

“All [recently introduced government] policies have acknowledged the need for modern technologies,” SIA said; however, these “have had a predominant focus on terrestrial technologies and very limited focus on space-based technologies in practice.”

India relies on satellite internet coverage in Lakshadweep, and until recently had it as the only option for web access in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Elon Musk-led SpaceX applied for clearance to test the Starlink constellation satellite internet system in India last month.

“The current emphasis on limited technology choices has kept a huge section of the nation and its citizens bereft of the advantages that alternate technologies like satellite communications, public Wi-Fi etc or combination of multiple technologies which could have been enabled many years back,” SIA complained.

“Multiple layers of permissions and requests to DOT, WPC [the Wireless Planning and Coordination wing], SACFA [the Standing Advisory Committee on Frequency Allocation] etc that create project delays and lead to missed opportunities and cost overruns must be removed/eased,” SIA said. “Ease of doing business and enhancement to policies that encourage FDI in India should be a focus of any framework.”

SIA also argued that satellite internet access should be allowed to be borderless: “In order to realize the vision of making India a space hub by the year 2030, satellite service providers in India should be allowed to establish gateways and TT&C centers (as being contemplated in the new space policy) that would serve both fixed and mobile satellite terminals in geographic areas beyond the borders of India and the Indian territorial waters in accordance with the rights granted to State under the international rights or that have been negotiated through bi-lateral agreements,” the association said.

Spectrum should only be allowed for use for the purpose it was licensed, SIA said. “In case if spectrum treatment were to be equal irrespective of technology and it is left to assignee to use as its own wish across various technologies then it may result in monopolistic market practice[s] [where] only service provider[s] with deep pockets will control the overall telecom services in India,” SIA said.

SIA said that creating a Telecommunication Development Fund under the Universal Service Obligation Fund (which the DoT ended up doing) “dilutes the primary aim” of providing universal and affordable telecom services. “The USOF is also the vehicle where the technology neutrality is more appropriate to mention wherein the KPIs [key performance indicators] of the USOF and BBNL should be in terms of connectivity and reach for nation first rather than ‘mobile first’ or ‘fibre first’ policies that have kept the country behind other nations in providing G2C services and information across the geography,” SIA argued.

In a single page filing, Hughes Communications, a major satellite provider that doesn’t appear to be an SIA member, said, “Global trends indicate that satellite communications is the next step in the evolution of the telecommunications space as is evidenced by advancements such as High Throughput Satellites and Low Earth Orbit Satellites.”

SIA said that the revamping of the telecom legislative framework was a “serious exercise and should not be rushed through,” adding that its members had “concerns on certain sections of the consultation paper that goes against international best practices, global harmonization and standardization.”

Other submissions on the DoT’s August 2022 consultation on a new legal framework for telecommunications in India were covered by Entrackr here: American Chamber of Commerce in India, Jio, Airtel, TRAI.

Send Suggestions or Tips