Opinion

Satellite Broadband: A faster way to connect India

Subba Rao Pavulur | Updated on July 04, 2021

Untapped potential   -  /iStockphoto

A conducive policy and regulatory environment is of vital need to tap the space sector’s potential

Over the past few months, there has been a sudden rise in the interest of satellite communications in India. The debate gained momentum when telcos asked for a pie in the 27.5 Ghz – 29.5 Ghz frequency, which globally is earmarked for satellite communications. Sharing of this frequency will prevent India from achieving the true potential of satellite communications.

Globally, companies are striving to build and deploy “mega-constellations” of hundreds or thousands of satellites to bring affordable high-speed internet services to businesses, governments, schools, and individuals. Despite India’s impressive achievements in the space sector, growth has been at snail’s pace.

As per ISRO studies, India currently holds a mere 3 per cent share in the $360-billion global space market. Satellite broadband services in India remains primarily for the B2B sector with a market size of roughly $100 million. SpaceCom experts predict that with the upcoming ‘Open Space’, satellite broadband services can be a $500 million-plus near-term market opportunity. However, this is possible only if there is a conducive policy environment.

Cost advantage

Satellite broadband provides instantaneous service. To beam into households, commercial establishments including machine to machine and IoT, satellite broadband does not require laying cable. Let us for a moment consider this – Space India 2.0 indicates that the cost to cover one sq km from space varies between $1.5 and $6, vis-a-vis $3,000 to $30,000 required by ground infrastructure to cover the same area. Such drastic cost reduction will benefit consumers. As there are no cables involved, consumers be it in B2B or B2C space will have unhindered connectivity. OTT services, high speed seamless internet access, rapid adoption of media streaming, connecting underserved areas, e-Sims and trunking technology are just a few sectors that will witness phenomenal growth.

Various companies have set up space stations that can cater to India’s requirements. Proliferation of new constellation types, High Throughput Tech, large number of innovative broadband and earth observation missions and emergence of GEO/MEO/LEO HTS offerings will augment growth. However, to achieve success, India needs to have conducive regulations and policy along with sufficient spectrum allocation, ease of doing business, dropping capacity prices, etc.

The Indian satellites are still using the conventional satellites despite the proliferation of high throughput satellites world-over: There is a lack of domestic participation for building space infrastructuredespite ‘Make in India’ mission. The use of traditional satellites technology in India makes it unfeasible for satellite broadband to be commercially viable. Globally, the use of high throughput [HTS] satellite has seen significant transformation to further sophisticated innovation, where the cost of realisation of satellite to the cost per Bit is way less. With right policy intervention SatCom [Direct and Indirect sectors] has a tremendous scope to contribute a sizeable chunk to the GDP growth, with the potential to open floodgates for greater innovation, R&D, employment, investment and connectivity.

However, an urgent re-look at deregulation and privatisation is required. Advanced space-faring nations have privatised most of these blocks in the value chain. There is a need for building systems to help nurture the industry and create an extensive ecosystem to generate a ‘Space 2.0’ in India.

There is massive potential for the space sector in replicating the success of the IT sector, whereby a structured operating system offers opportunities created by the government for larger private sector participation. Armed with a strong regulator and arbitrator, the sector will evolve into a revenue and employment generating behemoth.

The writer is President SIA-India and Chairman & MD – Ananth Technologies

Published on July 04, 2021

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