Elon Musk-backed Starlink to focus on areas with more pre-orders in India

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Elon Musk-backed satellite-based Starlink broadband started taking pre-orders globally from February 2021. The company’s website notes that users are required to pay $99 for Starlink’s broadband connection, which may roll out by 2022. However, it may not get materilaised, in which case the company will refund its customers. Starlink, which is yet to receive regulatory approval in India, recently announced Sanjay Bhargava as Starlink Country Director for India.

Meanwhile, an NGO has voiced out concerns about Starlink’s method of asking for a deposit calling it unfair. NGO called Telecom Watchdog in a letter to the telecom secretary has alleged that US billionaire Elon Musk-led Starlink is illegally collecting money from Indian consumers with a promise of providing them broadband service even though it has no licence for the same.

“Even if they submit an application for a license, there is no guarantee that the license will be issued. The payments are being collected in US dollars. It is a serious offence under RBI Rules as the rules permit remittance to a foreign party only for specific purposes for the party to receive the money,” the letter said.
Telecom Watchdog, in its letter dated September 29, said Starlink has started collecting money even without submitting an application for license with the Department of Telecom (DoT). It demanded that a criminal case be filed against the company.

Shortly after the complaint, a Starlink company official noted that it will focus on 10 rural Lok Sabha constituencies to provide internet services, news agency PTI reported. Sanjay Bhargava on Sunday said, “In October I am also keen to have 30-minute virtual conversations with MPs, ministers, secretaries to GOI (government of India), or principal secretaries to states to see if they think 100 per cent broadband would help improve lives. We will probably focus on ten rural Lok Sabha constituencies for 80 per cent of the Starlink terminals shipped to India.”

The SpaceX’s satellite broadband arm aims to start broadband service in India from December 2022, with 2 lakh active terminals subject to permission from the government. In an earlier social media post, Bhargava had said that the pre-order from India has crossed 5,000 and the company was keen to work in rural areas for providing broadband services. “The number of pre-orders from rural constituencies will be one factor that helps us select focus constituencies,” Bhargava said. In the post, he said that the company would be working with rural constituencies who were keen to have 100 per cent broadband.

(with inputs from PTI)



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