Government simplifying clearance processes for satcom services: DoT Secretary

The government is simplifying the clearance process to speed up satellite broadband network rollouts and also exploring ways to create a vibrant satcoms ecosystem in the country, K.Rajaraman, secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT) said.

He said an apex single platform clearance wing with representatives of the Department of Space, DoT (including its technical wing, Telecom Engineering Centre) and the I&B ministry amongst others, has been constituted to issue in-principle approvals to licensees keen to establish greenfield satellite networks in India.

“To enable speedy decision-making, an apex committee has been authorised to work as a single platform clearance body, and (prospective satcom) licencees have been mandated to seek in-principle approvals from this inter-ministerial body to establish new networks,” Rajaraman said at a satcoms event Tuesday organised by the Broadband India Forum.

He added that DoT would also “shortly examine the recommendations” of an internal task force constituted to formulate a roadmap for creating a superior satellite communications ecosystem in India, though he did not share details.

The DoT secretary’s comments come at a time when Bharti-backed OneWeb, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon’s Project Kuiper and the Tata-Telesat combine are readying to enter India’s relatively nascent fast broadband-from-space segment, leveraging their respective low–earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations.

India is seen as a key satellite internet market with a near-term $1 billion-plus annual revenue opportunity as 75% of rural India does not have access to broadband and many locations are still without cellular or fibre connectivity.

Separately, Rajaraman said DoT is “actively considering” Trai’s call for broadening the scope of existing service permits to allow delivery of low bit-rate connectivity services via satellite networks.

If DoT accepts Trai’s recommendations, it will pave the way for new-age data communications between machines via satellite. Low bit rate connectivity uses sensors to deliver smart services such as providing connectivity to IoT devices, tracking cargo, vehicles, railway safety systems, traffic signals to mapping soil conditions to even monitoring oil/gas pressures in vast industrial pipeline systems.

Trai chairman P D Vaghela, who also participated in the virtual satcom summit, said any potential DoT acceptance of Trai’s recommendations on low bit-rate connectivity services via satellites “would unleash a host of new use cases that could transform the rural economy”. He called on industry, academia and startups to “work together” in developing such use cases.

Vaghela also urged DoT to accept Trai’s suggestion, calling on the government to allow companies offering satellite-based IoT connectivity and low bit-rate services to hire foreign satellite capacities, based on an approved list of foreign satellites after technical and security evaluation.


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