Satellite communication: Trai releases consultation paper on licensing framework

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November 16, 2021 2:45 AM

The regulator will also discuss whether there is a need to have a specific licence for establishing a satellite earth station gateway in India to provide satellite-based resources to service licensees.

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,” DoT asked Trai.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,” DoT asked Trai.

To facilitate satellite communication services, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Monday came out with a consultation paper on licensing framework for establishing a satellite earth station gateway.

Through the paper, the regulator wants to deliberate issues concerning the licensing regime for such services like to whom should spectrum be assigned and what should be the methodology for the assignment of spectrum for establishing a satellite earth station. The regulator will also discuss whether there is a need to have a specific licence for establishing a satellite earth station gateway in India to provide satellite-based resources to service licensees.

Earlier, in September the department of telecommunications (DoT) had sought Trai’s recommendations on the issue. The DoT had stated that the current licensing framework concerning satellite services has limitations for proposed satellite gateways operations, as there are no provisions regarding usage of the gateway by a service provider established by a satellite constellation operator.

“Considering the constraints of the existing provisions in respect of proposed satellite gateway operations, DoT has stated that there is a need for a suitable licensing framework for satellite gateway operations. For this entry fee, license fee, bank guarantee, NOCC charges, and any other issues which may be relevant for LEO/MEO/HTS systems, maybe suggested” Trai said.

As per the current licensing regime in the country, establishing an earth station is linked with the service licence, and there is no specific licence for establishing an earth station by satellite operators to provide satellite-based resources to the service licensee.

As per DoT, while the conventional satellites operate with a single wide beam spanning a large area (say entire Indian territory), the satellite technologies like LEO (low earth orbit) and MEO (medium earth orbit) operate through narrow beams with a typical span of beam approximately 250 Kms. This results in multiple narrow beams covering an area as compared to a single wide beam of conventional satellites. Consequentially, there may be a need to set up multiple gateways to control a large number of beams.

As per DoT, the current licensing conditions may pose a limitation to establishing its gateway for rendering satellite services thereby resulting in higher CapEx and OpEx. “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,” DoT asked Trai.

Satellite communications are extremely useful for providing broadband services in remote, hilly, and inaccessible regions. It is also the only medium through which communication can be established in disaster zones when normal communication gets affected. In satellite communications, services are provided through low-earth orbit (Leo) satellites, through which a box is suspended in remote and hilly regions which creates WiFi spots through which broadband services are provided.

There is a clear divide among the industry players regarding the allocation of spectrum for satellite communications. While Bharti Group chairman Sunil Mittal has categorically stated that satellite broadband spectrum should not be allocated through auctions but given administratively, telecom firms like Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea are insisting on the auction of this spectrum.

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