OneWeb applies to India for satellite services licence
OneWeb has applied to the Indian government for a licence to provide personal satellite communications.
According to Indian media reports, a licence from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) would enable the company to offer services to satellite phones and other terminals across the country.
An unnamed source told India’s Financial Express: “OneWeb is in advance preparations to start laying the required infrastructure — like ground stations — in India to enable services.”
The move comes as OneWeb has taken delivery of the next batch of 36 satellites at Russia’s Vostochny cosmodrome close to the Chinese border. A Russian Soyuz rocket, operated by French company Arianespace, is due to launch the satellites on 1 July. A further launch is expected at the beginning of August.
If the launch is successful, that will boost the number of satellites in orbit from 238 to 274, 42% of the total of 648 that OneWeb plans by the middle of 2022.
The low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites orbit at 1,200km above the ground, ensuring latency is just a few milliseconds.
The company, which is owned by the UK government, Bharti Enterprises, SoftBank and Hughes, plans to launch services between the 50° north parallel and the North Pole by the end of this year, with global services being phased in through 2022.
In an interview with Capacity earlier this year, Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb and head of the Bharti group, including mobile operator Bharti Airtel, said he expected to use the LEO satellites to backhaul mobile base stations. At the moment many in remote areas use geosynchronous satellites, orbiting at 35,786km above the surface, giving a latency of 250ms.
Mittal told Capacity at the time that OneWeb will be a wholesale operation and will offer services to all mobile operators.
Before OneWeb can get an Indian satellite licence, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the government in New Delhi need to take a decision on spectrum policy — especially whether to run an auction for satellite spectrum or to offer bandwidth through a beauty contest to favoured companies.