Indian Space Regulator approves Reliance-SES joint venture for satellite internet

The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) granted three approvals to Orbit Connect India in April and June, as confirmed by a government executive.

Orbit Connect India, a joint venture between Reliance Industries’ Jio Platforms and Luxembourg-based SES, has secured approval from the Indian space regulator to operate satellites in the country. This move marks a crucial step in the race to provide high-speed satellite-based internet access across India.

The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) granted three approvals to Orbit Connect India in April and June, as confirmed by a government executive. These authorizations allow the company to operate satellites above Indian airspace, although additional approvals from the Department of Telecommunications are required before operations can commence.

The satellite broadband service market in India is poised for significant growth, with Deloitte projecting a 36% annual increase over the next five years, reaching a valuation of $1.9 billion by 2030. This potential has attracted a host of global players, including Amazon’s Kuiper and Elon Musk’s Starlink, both of which have applied for similar approvals.

IN-SPACe chairman Pawan Goenka revealed that Inmarsat has also received approval to operate satellites over India, while Eutelsat’s Bharti Enterprises-backed OneWeb secured all necessary approvals late last year. Goenka emphasized that increased competition in the sector would benefit consumers, potentially driving innovation and reducing prices for communication services.

The approvals come amid a broader push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to develop India’s space industry. Recent policy changes have opened the sector to foreign direct investment, allowing up to 100% investment in the manufacture of satellite components and systems without prior approval.

This liberalization has led to a significant uptick in investor interest. Goenka noted that investments in private space companies have jumped from $2-7 million last year to $20-30 million this year, signalling growing confidence in the sector’s potential.

As part of its efforts to foster the space industry, IN-SPACe is also preparing to authorize private companies to operate ground stations. This move would enable satellite operators to download data as their satellites pass over India, further enhancing the country’s space capabilities.

The entry of Orbit Connect India into the satellite internet market, alongside other global players, is expected to accelerate the expansion of high-speed internet access across India, particularly in rural and remote areas. This development aligns with the government’s broader digital initiatives and could play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide in the world’s most populous nation.

As the regulatory landscape evolves and more players enter the market, India’s satellite communication sector is poised for rapid growth and innovation, potentially transforming internet connectivity across the country.