Elon Musk-led SpaceX’s satellite broadband arm Starlink is planning to explore collaboration with telecom companies in India to expand broadband services in the country with a focus on rural areas, a top company official said on Friday.
Starlink Country Director India at SpaceX Sanjay Bhargava told PTI that discussions with broadband service providers will start once the 12 Phase-1 aspirational districts are identified by the Niti Aayog and the company will see the interest levels of the various players and the USOF (universal service obligation fund). “I am hoping that we will get a time-bound 100 per cent broadband plan that can serve as a model for other districts but the devil is in the details and there may be many good reasons why one or more broadband providers do not want to collaborate, though to me that seems unlikely,” Bhargava said.
Starlink claims to have received over 5,000 pre-orders from India. The company is charging a deposit of USD 99 or Rs 7,350 per customer and claims to deliver data speeds in the range of 50-150 megabits per second in the beta stage. Bhargava had earlier announced that the company will focus on 10 rural Lok Sabha constituencies to provide internet services for 80 per cent of the Starlink terminals shipped to India.
“At Starlink, we can roll out fast if we have licensing approval and…the starlinks could move to other remote areas,” Bhargava said. In a social media post, Bhargava said the company wants to collaborate with all. “We want to collaborate with all and have others besides us licensed to provide satellite broadband so that satellite plus terrestrial together can provide 100 per cent broadband, especially in rural districts,” he said.
There have been some reports of Starlink mulling manufacturing of terminals to provide satellite broadband services in India but Bhargava said the company is not actively thinking about making terminals for broadband locally.