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Elon Musk's Starlink registers India unit, can apply for licenses

Elon Musk's Starlink registers India unit, can apply for licenses
2 Nov, 2021

Starlink, the satellite internet division of Elon Musk-led SpaceX, has registered its business in India. The India unit of Starlink will be known as SSCPL- Starlink Satellite Communications Private Limited, India country director Sanjay Bhargava said in a LinkedIn post. 

"Pleased to share that SpaceX now has a 100% owned subsidiary in India. The name is SSCPL- Starlink Satellite Communications Private Limited and the incorporation date is November 1. We can now start applying for licenses, open bank accounts, etc," Bhargava, Starlink Country Director India, said in a statement.  

Musk had tweeted praises for Bhargava earlier this month, saying, “Sanjay deserves a lot of credit for making X/PayPal succeed. Now helping SpaceX serve rural communities in India. Much respect.” 

The registration of the India unit will make it easier for the company to apply for licenses to offer satellite internet services.

In March, Starlink had added Indian locations where its services would be available and started taking pre-bookings from Indian users at a refundable amount of $99 (approx Rs 7,409).

Starlink is a constellation of Internet satellites that can beam the Internet to the remotest corners on Earth. They are smaller in size and orbit much closer to the Earth’s surface, at an altitude of 550km, in comparison to large navigation and communication satellites that orbit above 2,000 km or the satellites in geosynchronous orbit that operate from beyond 35,000 km. 

Due to their proximity to Earth's surface, low orbit satellites can offer a better Internet experience at much lower latency and without interference. The company has already launched around 1700 satellites in the Starlink constellation. The company plans to launch 12,000 satellites in total.

Starlink's internet services are currently available in beta, however, that may change soon as they have been working on improving download speeds. In February, Musk tweeted, "You might see much higher download speeds on Starlink at times. Testing system upgrades."

Starlink currently offers Internet speeds of 50 to 150 Mbps to its beta users, as per their website. 

Though the Internet user base in India has been growing rapidly, a large part of the country is still not covered by broadband services due to terrain and other geographical challenges. 

In 2020, SpaceX was awarded $885 million by the US Federal Communications Commission for its efforts to make high-speed internet available to users in remote areas.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), 50% of people in India didn't have internet access as of August 2020. In comparison, only 14% of users in the US didn't have Internet access. 

Starlink isn't the only satellite Internet company that is eyeing the Indian market. Bharti Airtel has partnered with OneWeb to launch a high-speed satellite internet service by 2022.

Similarly, Hughes India, a subsidiary of Hughes Network Systems, has also tied up with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to provide internet services to 5,000 remote villages in Eastern Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura, and Manipur.