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Satellite Broadband Services in India

Satellite Broadband Services in India: Relevance for UPSC Exam

General Studies III- Awareness in The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology, Pharma Sector & Health Science

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Satellite Broadband Services in India: Context

The race for providing satellite broadband connectivity in India is heating up as companies like Jio, Oneweb, Hughes and Tata-backed Nelco are preparing to provide these services.

  • Earlier last month, Hughes Communications India (HCI), a satellite internet service provider launched India’s first high throughput satellite (HTS) broadband service powered by ISRO satellites.
  • It used Ku-band capacity from ISRO GSAT-11 and GSAT-29 satellites with Hughes JUPITER Platform ground technology to deliver high-speed broadband.

What is a Satellite Broadband Service?

  • Broadband essentially means a wide bandwidth, high-capacity data transmission technique, using a broad range of frequencies.
  • In the case of a satellite broadband service, broadband services are delivered directly via satellites instead of optical fibre or mobile networks.

How is it different from existing broadband services?

  • The main difference is that aggregation of all the data generated and transmitted by users accessing the internet happens in the sky or space that is in the satellite.
  • In contrast to this, if we take a look at cellular networks, aggregation happens on the ground, in the base stations through optical fibre, cable, etc.
  • Another key difference is that to access satellite services, we will need a dish antenna just like we do in the case of TV services, so a normal mobile handset cannot directly access satellite broadband.
  • For a user to access satellite broadband a clear line of sight to the satellite is needed.

Satellite Broadband Services in India: Advantages

  • The main advantage of satellite services is that you can provide high-speed internet services in remote areas, where terrestrial networks cannot be set u.
  • In a country with a wide range of geographies such as India, 20-25 per cent of the Indian population resides in areas where it is extremely hard for terrestrial operators to install internet facilities.

Satellite Broadband Services in India: Scope in India

  • Currently, VSAT operators offer satellite broadband services at a very limited capacity in India in a few remote locations.
  • The utilisation of satellite services for broadband services is restricted to minimal applications — such as disaster management, defence, scientific locations, etc.

How India (undoubtedly, the ISRO) has geared up for adapting to this?

  • ISRO’s high throughput GEO (Geostationary Equatorial Orbit) satellites – GSAT-11 and GSAT-29 a few years ago, can beam high-speed internet up to 300 gigabytes per second.
  • Apart, many global players look to provide satellite broadband services in India by deploying low earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
  • They are launching a constellation of satellites very close to the earth’s surface in order to reduce the latency of satellite broadband.
  • Presently, Elon Musk’s Starlink, Sunil Bharti Mittal-backed OneWeb and the Canadian satellite major Telesat are eyeing the Indian market.

When will these services be available in India?

  • If things go as planned and the players get the necessary regulatory clearance, these services could become operational in India as soon as next year.
  • OneWeb wants to provide backhaul services to telcos by mid-next year, while Starlink wants to provide direct broadband services by December 2022, aiming at 2 lakh terminals.
  • Telesat, on the other hand, is eyeing n India launch by 2024.

Satellite Broadband Services in India: Cost?

  • The provision of direct broadband services through satellites will be pricey.
  • According to a user guide for India, provided by Starlink, the first-year cost of a Starlink terminal will be ₹1,58,000 after which it will cost around ₹1,15,000 every year.

Satellite Broadband Services in India: Major hurdles

  • Latency: Additionally, satellite Internet latency can be a significant problem. This can be a matter of only a second or two, but a delay on that scale can seriously affect real-time applications like video chats.
  • Spatial hurdles: Users might not be able to connect to a satellite at all if they are located under heavy foliage or surrounded by other obstructions.
  • Limited bandwidth: Satellite data transfer provides very slow Internet speeds and limited satellite bandwidth because of the distances the signals have to travel and all the potential obstacles in between.
  • Connection times: This can also be impacted by your surroundings, the length of your message, and the status and availability of the satellite network.
  • High input cost: This along with the complex equipment like satellite dishes being used to avail these services makes the service expensive.

Way forward

  • An urgent re-look at deregulation and privatization is required.
  • Advanced space-faring nations have privatized most of these blocks in the value chain.
  • There is a need for building systems to help nurture the industry and create an extensive ecosystem to generate a ‘Space 2.0’ in India.


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