India to allot satellite internet airwaves without auction in win for Elon Musk

India has proposed a licensing approach for allocating spectrum for satellite internet services, eliminating the necessity for companies to participate in bidding—a move that favors Elon Musk\’s Starlink, a staunch advocate against auctions.

This proposal is articulated in a fresh draft bill for the telecommunications sector, designed to replace the 138-year-old Indian Telegraph Act currently overseeing the sector. The bill was submitted for parliamentary approval on Monday.

While Starlink, alongside global counterparts such as Amazon\’s Project Kuiper and the British government-supported OneWeb, welcomes this development, it represents a setback for Mukesh Ambani, Asia\’s wealthiest individual, who heads the Indian telecom giant Reliance Jio.

Foreign companies, including Starlink, have been advocating for a licensing approach, expressing concerns that an auction in India, unlike in other regions, could set a precedent leading to similar actions by other nations, thereby escalating costs and investments. Reuters reported on this in June.

Conversely, Reliance Jio, India\’s largest telecom operator, argued in favor of an auction, akin to the distribution of 5G spectrum in India. According to Reliance, foreign satellite service providers could offer voice and data services, competing with traditional telecom players, making an auction essential for achieving a level playing field.

Anil Prakash, Director General at SIA-India, a satellite industry body, remarked, \”By bypassing traditional auctions, this pragmatic method is poised to expedite the deployment of satellite services more efficiently.\”

Deloitte forecasts that India\’s satellite broadband service market will undergo a 36% annual growth, reaching $1.9 billion by 2030.

The draft telecom bill revealed on Monday also confers authority upon the Indian government to suspend or prohibit the use of telecom equipment from specific countries on grounds of national security.

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