What you need to know about space internet

With the potential huge, marquee names are already keen on entering the space. How does it pan out for the consumers? ET’s Kalyan Parbat explains:

What’s a BFS service?

  • A high-speed wireless communication to bring internet traffic to a consumer’s home/office via a satellite network in space, also called satellite broadband
  • Satellite broadband data speeds can go beyond 300 Mbps, but initial peak speeds likely 100 Mbps How BFS Works
  • A satellite network involves geostationary (GEO) or low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites. The heart of a satellite network operation is an earth station gateway located in a particular region
  • Gateway links satellite network to the Net
  • Consumer needs a device, called a user access terminal (UT) and antenna to connect to a satellite network

The players

  • Bharti-backed OneWeb, Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch satellite broadband in India next year via LEO satellites. Canada’s Telesat and Amazon’s Project Kuiper to enter India too
  • These companies plan a B-B model, tie up with existing telcos, service providers to reach the end consumer.
  • US-based Hughes to invest in $500 m GEO satellite for India market

The challenges

  • Satellite broadband service costs nearly $20 or Rs 1,500 a GB now. Here’s why
  • Satcom players can’t lease foreign satellite capacity directly. Need to go via DoS, jacking up leasing cost, 10 times global average
  • No access to high-throughput satellites UTs expensive; base models cost nearly $1,000
  • If policy deterrents go away and UT prices crash, satellite broadband rates can plunge to Rs 100 a GB
  • User volumes must jump and new LEO satellite tech must mature fast for satellite broadband rates to drop

The needed policy paradigm

  • India’s new Spacecom policy likely by March 2022
  • Clarity around licencing rules for LEO satellite operators
  • Clarity on quantum of 28 Ghz satellite spectrum to be blocked for 5G
  • Clarity on spectrum bands for satellite UTs and satellite gateways

The market

  • $4.7 billion Size of India’s satellite services market by 2025, a CAGR of 4.3%
  • $1 billion Current satellite broadband revenue opportunity

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