Elon Musk’s Starlink and Amazon, led by Jeff Bezos, have entered the battle over satellite spectrum allotment in India, taking opposing positions to telecom market leader Reliance Jio Infocomm and Vodafone Idea. The issue at hand is whether satellite airwaves should be auctioned or allotted administratively.
Starlink, Amazon, OneWeb (backed by Bharti Group), and Telesat have argued to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) that auctioning satellite spectrum would make satellite communications financially unviable. They believe that auctions would result in unaffordable broadband from space services, limiting high-speed broadband connectivity for consumers, especially in rural and underserved areas.
On the other hand, Jio and Vodafone Idea support auctioning satellite spectrum to ensure a competitive landscape among service providers. The Department of Telecommunications also backs the auction approach.
Interestingly, Bharti Airtel, supported by the Bharti Group, opposes the auction but for different reasons than the global satcom companies. Airtel expressed concerns that an auction could put Indian players at a disadvantage compared to global operators, creating barriers for competition and potentially rendering satellite systems redundant.
The companies have responded to a consultation paper issued by Trai, and open house sessions on the matter will be held soon. Trai will then make recommendations, which the telecom department will consider before making a final decision.
This is the first time that Starlink, Amazon, and similar companies have directly commented on the satellite allotment issue, previously expressing their views through industry lobby groups. The outcome of this debate will shape the future of satellite communications and broadband services in India.