Jio and OneWeb secure licences for satellite internet services in India: Report

Jio Satellite Communications Ltd and Eutelsat OneWeb have been granted the requisite licences to provide satellite internet services in India. Both companies hold the GMPCS (Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite) licence, alongside a pan-India ISP (Internet Service Provider) licence. As reported by the Financial Express, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) allocated ISP-A and a VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) licence to OneWeb on Wednesday. The report states that Jio secured the ISP licence in October.

However, a significant challenge faced by both companies revolves around the satellite spectrum, which is currently a subject of internal government debate. There are differing opinions within the government on whether the spectrum should be allocated administratively or through an auction process.

Jio showcased JioSpaceFiber at the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2023, while Airtel’s booth featured solutions from Eutelsat OneWeb. It is evident that Jio Satellite Communications and Eutelsat OneWeb are poised to be the first companies to launch satellite internet services in India, with a primary focus on enterprises. Their current emphasis is not on providing services to consumers.

Meanwhile, Amazon and Starlink are also in the process of obtaining the GMPCS licence in India. Starlink is anticipated to secure the licence soon. The Elon Musk-owned Starlink is already operational in various countries, delivering seamless internet services via satellites. In India, the company faced setbacks when attempting to sell pre-bookings without the necessary licences. Authorities instructed Starlink to refund customers and cease pre-booking sales until proper licences were acquired.

The ISP (Internet Service Provider) licence and the GMPCS (Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite) licence are distinct authorisations granted by regulatory bodies, each governing different aspects of communication services.

1. ISP Licence (Internet Service Provider):
   – Scope: An ISP licence pertains to the provision of internet services. It allows a company or entity to offer internet connectivity, bandwidth, and related services to end-users or other businesses.
   – Infrastructure: ISPs typically operate and maintain the necessary network infrastructure, including servers, routers, and cables, to facilitate the transmission of data over the internet.
   – Services: ISPs provide services such as broadband internet, email hosting, website hosting, and virtual private networks (VPNs), among others.

2. GMPCS Licence (Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite):
   – Scope: A GMPCS licence, on the other hand, focuses on satellite-based mobile communication services on a global scale. It allows the licencee to offer mobile communication services via satellite technology.
   – Infrastructure: GMPCS services rely on satellite networks to enable communication in areas where traditional terrestrial networks may be unavailable or impractical.
   – Services: GMPCS licences cover mobile voice and data communication services delivered through satellite connections. These services are often used in remote or mobile environments, providing connectivity beyond the reach of terrestrial networks.

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