August 3, 2021

Bharti group chairman Sunil Mittal says auction unnecessary for satcom spectrum – Marseille News

He also said that around the world there had never been an auction for the satellite spectrum. “This is nothing new, spectrum for satellites has been around for 100 years and all GEO / MEO satellites are already using it,” Mittal added.

Bharti Group Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal has backed tech majors like Google and Amazon, saying satellite broadband spectrum should not be awarded through auctions but administered administratively.

In an interaction with FE, Mittal said such spectrum has not been auctioned anywhere in the world because it is only required in certain places, unlike earth waves which are needed everywhere. This is the first time that Bharti has taken a strong position on how broadband spectrum is allocated by satellite. Although Jio and Vodafone Idea fought for the auction of this spectrum, in their response to a consultation paper launched by Trai, Bharti had remained silent on the subject.

“There’s probably a lack of understanding… auctioning what?” … It will be a ground station on say 50 km² area, so what do you want to auction in a village on 50 km²… what auction will you do. People don’t understand, it’s not the terrestrial spectrum that’s being used, it’s not being used in all parts of the country, it’s only going to be used at two landing stations, “Mittal said.

He also said that around the world there had never been an auction for the satellite spectrum. “This is nothing new, spectrum for satellites has been around for 100 years and all GEO / MEO satellites are already using it,” Mittal added.

Broadband India Forum, an association of tech players like Google, Hughes, etc., had previously expressed opposition to the auction arguing that spectrum for Satcom is not exclusive to one operator as it is with terrestrial spectrum used for mobile services, so auctioning doesn’t make sense.

“All over the world, satellite spectrum is licensed for a ‘right of use’ by all administrations everywhere and is only allocated administratively at royalties mainly covering administration costs. Unlike the terrestrial spectrum, the satellite spectrum is never exclusively allocated to the operator but coordinated at the international level and shared between several operators for different orbital slots and all types of satellites. Thus, the concept of terrestrial exclusivity does not apply and auctioning is therefore not applicable ”, the president of the Broadband India Forum (BIF), TV Ramachandran, told FE.

Satellite communication services (Satcom) are expected to gain ground in the near future, with major global technology majors like SpaceX, Amazon showing interest in the Indian market. Bharti Enterprises has also supported satellite communications company OneWeb, which also plans to launch pan-Indian services by May of next year. OneWeb has already requested statutory approvals from the Telecommunications Department and the Space Department and hopes to get the green light within a month.

While the license can be granted to the company by the DoT at any time, the spectrum allocation will likely only be done after Trai and the government decide whether the airwaves should be auctioned or administratively allocated.

OneWeb, the low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company, has successfully launched 36 more satellites to mark the completion of its “Five to 50” mission. With this milestone, the company is on track to provide connectivity across the UK, Canada, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland and the Arctic region.

When asked about India’s plans for OneWeb, Mittal said the company would be able to sell most of the capacity within a year. “Contracts will be with mobile operators, defense authorities, forestry department, railways, shipping agencies, there are many discussions currently underway, the market remains large,” Mittal said.
Pricing for satellite services is bound to be expensive and that is why OneWeb does not seek millions of customers. As part of its strategy, OneWeb will not serve individual customers directly but through partnerships with mobile operators.

“Our main customers will be operators but we will sell to big companies… there will be a mix and match but we are not going to retail customers who are only run by mobile operators. Our network design is such that we only serve B2B and we have no ambition to sell directly to customers, ”said Mittal, allaying fears among telecom operators that satcom services would replace mobile telephony. Mittal said Airtel being part of the Bharti group will not be the only beneficiary. “This (partnership) is open to all operators in the country, we would like to give it to Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea,” he added.

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