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Satellite Spectrum Showdown: Elon Musk vs. Mukesh Ambani - Modi's Vision for Digital India

Updated: Jul 29

The battle between Elon Musk and Mukesh Ambani over acquiring the satellite spectrum in India
The battle between Elon Musk and Mukesh Ambani over acquiring the satellite spectrum in India

Asia's richest man, Ambani, is prepared to compete against the world's richest man, Elon Musk, over the future of telecommunication in India—the satellite spectrum. As of now, there are numerous discussions circulating around the acquisition of the satellite spectrum, which forms the foundation for satellite communication. While allowing private companies access to India's satellite internet can address the issue, the government must choose between the two options when assigning the satellite communication. Will the government distribute the satellite spectrums, or will they be put up for auction?

The Main Debate

Satellite Communication

The primary bone of contention in this issue is the allocation of spectrum rights through an auction. In the past, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has acquired over 77,841.80 crores through 4G spectrum auctions. While auctions may not be perceived as entirely fair, they have the potential to generate significant revenue for the government. However, Elon Musk, the world's richest man, objects to the auction route and believes that satellite spectrum should be treated as a shared resource, unlike terrestrial spectrum.

Where Do Companies Stand?

Different Strategies of Big Players

Jio strongly advocates for an auction system, while other rivals oppose it. Elon Musk's Starlink has written to TRAI in favor of administrative allocation of the satellite spectrum. Other supporters of administrative allocation include the well-known Airtel-backed satellite company OneWeb and Canadian satellite operator Telesat.

Several industry bodies agree with the idea of administrative allocation, but Jio is determined to have an auction-based method. Jio's satellite service, Jio Space Technology Limited, has partnered with SES, a Luxembourg-based satellite connectivity solution, to provide satellite-based communication in India. The company has also acquired the GMPCS license from DoT. Jio justifies its stance by referring to the Supreme Court's landmark judgment in the 2G allocation case, emphasizing the need for a fair and transparent procedure in the distribution of natural resources, which supports the auction-based system.

Concerns for Small Players

While Jio's rise has been challenging for many small companies in the past, preferring the auction method could again impact these small startup satellite companies negatively. Some other companies, including Vodafone Idea, support the auction method, while many others are not in favor of it. Out of the 64 initial responses from stakeholders, 47 were in favor of administrative allocation, while 14 preferred an auction method. Three did not explicitly state their stance on spectrum allocation.

Personal Perspective

Jio's arrival have caused many popular brands to discontinue their operations.

I would love to see the government's decision in this matter. The auction-based method would clearly favor Ambani's Jio satellite communication, possibly expanding his monopoly over the Indian market. However, this could adversely affect many small players, as we have seen in the case of 4G communication, where smaller brands like Aircel and MTNL faced challenges. I strongly believe in promoting equality by sharing the satellite spectrum among various companies, allowing consumers to choose from a variety of products. Ultimately, it is up to the government to decide whether they will adopt an auction-based system or implement a shared approach that supports multiple companies. What are your views? Which option do you prefer?



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