Telecom regulator Trai has invited stakeholders’ views to explore framework for setting up satellite gateways in India — demand for which is rising due to the development of satellites in low and medium orbits.
The consultation paper has been floated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) following reference from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on September 10, to furnish recommendations of licencing framework for satellite earth station gateway operations encompassing aspects like licence fee, entree fee, network operation and control centre (NOCC).
Currently, there is one satellite gateway located in Ghaziabad to facilitate satellite phone services via Inmarsat’s 4th-generation constellation.
The satellites in geostationary earth orbit (GEO) located at a distance of around 36,000 kilometres from earth operate with a single wide beam spanning a large area (say entire Indian territory). The satellite technologies like LEO (low-earth orbit) located at distance in the range of 160-2,000 kilometre and MEO (medium-earth orbit), at distance in the range of 2,000-35,786 kilometre, operate through narrow beams with typical span of beam about 250 kilometres.
Satellites operating in multiple narrow beams may need to set up multiple gateways to control a large number of beams.
“The current licensing framework mandates a licensee to establish its own gateway for rendering any kind of satellite-based communication services. As per the license conditions…the service provider licensee is required to establish gateway itself for rendering satellite based communication services.
“There are no provisions in the existing licenses of VSAT CUG, GMPCS and MSS-R regarding the usage of gateway by service provider established by a satellite constellation operator,” Trai said in the consultation paper.
It said that given the current regulatory/licensing framework, a telecom service provider (TSP) may have to establish a gateway in compliance with the Unified Licence terms and conditions, even to utilise a small chunk of bandwidth to render service.
The regulator said that the current licensing conditions may pose a limitation to establish its own gateway for rendering satellite services thereby resulting in higher capital and operational expenditure.
Already, several low-orbit operators, including OneWeb and Starlink, have announced their plans to start providing satellite-based broadband services in India.
“Given the circumstances, it may be desirable to explore the possibility of a licensing framework for establishing gateway as an independent facility, set up either by a satellite constellation operator or any other entity.
“Under the new framework, the licensee who establishes gateway should be able to deliver its services to other licensees, which in turn would render services to the end users,” Trai said.
The regulator has sought comments on the consultation paper by December 13 and counter comments by December 27.