Telesat, OneWeb take steps to begin India operations

Ayushi Kar Mumbai | Updated on September 26, 2021

Low Earth Orbit satellites are the next disrupter in the broadband communications space.   -  istock/SasinParaksa

Satellite players commence process of building gateways

Even as the much-awaited space communication policy is yet to be announced, satellite players such as Telesat and OneWeb have commenced their initial steps to initiate their operations in India.

Bharti-backed OneWeb has already commenced building two gateways required for interface between the internet and satellite network. Canadian satellite major Telesat will be conducting trials in India soon, using their operational low orbit satellites.

OneWeb aims to become operational in India from the middle of next year, providing backhaul services to telecom operators, such as Bharti Airtel, as well as distributing services to many large enterprises, small to medium businesses and government operations through partnerships with broadband services providers such as Hughes.

Telesat, on the other hand, will be completing its constellation build and providing its network services worldwide from 2024. Manik Vinnekota, Telesat’s Director of Commercial and Product Development, told BusinessLine that Telesat is in early-stage conversation with players such as Vodafone Idea, Jio and Hughes.

LEO satellites

Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are the next disrupter in the broadband communications space. Here, a constellation of satellites is being launched close to the earth’s surface, to use satellite technology to beam the internet to the most remote parts of the world.

LEO players will also use the constellation network to provide backhaul services for the telecom operators, which means connecting the subnetwork cell towers to the core network, for which telcos usually use optical fibres.

The industry is still waiting for the government to announce a policy that is critical to their operations. This includes clarity regarding whether the 28Ghz band can be shared between operators and satellite players, allocation of satellite spectrum and licensing.

Peng Zhao, heading APAC Government Affairs and Policy for OneWeb, told BusinessLine, “The new agency IN-SPACe, which is part of the New Spacecom policy’s objectives, will become a one-stop-shop for satellite operators to ask for licences. Right now that is the biggest hurdle for OneWeb as we have to approach various agencies and departments for licencing approvals.”

On 28Ghz band issue

Commenting on the controversy where satellite players are opposed to sharing the 28Ghz band between telcos and satellite players, Zhao said “This 28Ghz band is the only one available to satellite operators at the moment and is a bitter fight between the two industries. The question is that whether mobile operators really need that band, while 26GHz and many other 5G bands are available; on the other hand, if this band is taken away from satellite players, it is very difficult to do business and provide connectivity to those needing it the most.”

“OneWeb is very lucky in this regard, as we are only using the band for gateway purposes, and in the worst-case scenario where 28Ghz will be shared, we would still be able to deploy our gateways in India, while taking necessary precautions to prevent interference. However, proper mitigation measures need to be implemented by terrestrial operators to ensure interference-free operation of those gateways,” he added.

OneWeb has already commenced the process of building their gateways placing them in strategic locations to avoid interference from future 5G base stations, in a scenario where the government decides that 28Ghz will be shared between satellite players and telcos.

Published on September 25, 2021

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