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Amazon eyeing satellite broadband space in India

Amazon, owned by world’s richest person Jeff Bezos, is reportedly planning to enter the satellite broadband space in India, in a move that is sure to spark off competition with arch-rivals Bharti-backed One-Web and Elon Musk’s SpaceX and drive down pricey satellite broadband rates.

The Department of Space (DoS) gives landing rights for downlinking signals of foreign satellites into the country.

Amazon is investing over $10 billion to build a constellation of 3,236 lowearth orbit (LEO) satellites as part of its global space internet initiative, Project Kuiper. It has yet to disclose India plans though.

“…talks with the DoS and Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will happen on the necessary regulatory approvals to bring Amazon’s high-speed broadband services to India via its Project Kuiper satellite constellation as part of the global launch,” the publication quoted a source as saying.

According to industry executives, India is a critical emerging satellite internet market that Amazon cannot ignore as the country can potentially generate $500 million revenue as millions of Indians in rural and remote areas do not have access to fast internet services. According to the ET report, 75% of the rural population does not have access to broadband since many locations have no cellular or fibre connectivity. As a result, LEO satellite systems are being viewed as a viable alternative, though it is costly at present.

“As LEO satellite technology rapidly gains global scale and bandwidth leasing costs head down, it would make strong business sense for Amazon to quickly make inroads into India’s emerging satellite broadband market to effectively compete with OneWeb and SpaceX,” Rohan Dhamija, partner and head, India & Middle East at technology, media and telecom consultancy Analysys Mason told the business daily.

OneWeb and SpaceX have already announced big India plans that could give them a strong first-mover advantage in a key telecom market, he added.

Musk’s SpaceX and OneWeb — backed by Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Group and the UK government — are readying to start satellite broadband operations in India next year, leveraging their respective LEO satellite constellations. Industry experts said Amazon’s potential entry can cut the current high cost of satellite internet services, which is nearly 30 times more expensive than 4G mobile broadband in India.

These services are now priced at around $15-20 per GB in the country, about 22-30 times higher than $0.68 per GB for mobile data.

According to brokerage CLSA, satellite broadband can also be deployed for a host of supply chain management use cases such as real-time vehicle fleet tracking to cold chain management of refrigerated items such as medicines and food.

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