Trai bats for Open Sky satellite policy

Written by Ashish Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 19 2012, 06:29am hrs
In what would be a first for the sector, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has batted for an 'Open Sky' policy that will benefit the Indian DTH and VSAT operators.

The regulator, on behalf of the industry, also wants a revision of the 12-year old Indian satellite communication policy, sources in Trai said.

Earlier this week, Trai shot-off a letter to the chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) asking for a re-look at the current satellite policy which has lead to a huge shortage of satellite capacity. Apart from telecom sector, Trai is also the regulator for the cable and broadcasting sector.

Sources said the regulator has supported the idea of empowering the domestic DTH and VSAT operators so that they can directly engage with foreign satellite operators if Isro can not meet the acute shortfall in transponder capacity in C, extended C and Ku bands.

This idea has already found support in the DTH and VSAT associations which have also written to department of space, department of telecommunication, I&B ministry and PMO among others.

According to industry estimates, there is a demand for over 400 transponders to meet the rapid expansion in DTH and satellite-based communication services. However, all transponders put together, Isro has provided only 180-odd transponders to the domestic users leaving a huge gap in the supply-demand equation.

Sources said the Trai letter to Isro chief may be taken up at the next meeting of Insat Coordination Council, an internal committee of Isro and the Secretaries of two-dozen central ministries.

As reported by FE earlier this week, over half-a-dozen foreign satellite companies including SES, Asiasat, ABS, Thiacom Amos, Intelsat, Measat, and Eutelsat and others are now in race to pick up slots over India. Sources said, all these operators have applied to the request for proposal (RFP) floated by Isro last month.

Meanwhile, the direct-to-home operators and the VSAT associations have asked the government to modify the existing satellite communication policy so as to allow private operators to directly engage with foreign operators within the framework of the modified policy.

Routing of foreign satellites via Isro may not be adequate to service the growing domestic demand for spectrum. In fact, both DTH and VSAT associations have asked the Prime Ministers Office to modify the satellite policy," said a senior executive of the VSAT association.

This is because against a much-needed requirement of providing 70-80 additional Ku-band transponders on satellites, Antrix, the commercial wing of Isro has neither been able to provide INSAT-series satellites (as mandated in DTH licensing norms) nor it has cleared files of DTH firms requesting migration to foreign satellites, sources said.