Satellite communication service provider OneWeb is able to match mobile services rates of western countries but its prices can’t be at par with the “extremely low” tariff in India, company’s executive chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said on Sunday. Sharing details of OneWeb launch and services, Mittal said that the services will be affordable and at par with that of mobile rates if a community of 30-40 homes in a village use it.
However, the services will cost more for individual use in India compared to existing mobile services plans.
“If you ask me, can the pricing of satellite communication be at par with mobile tariffs? Whatever is currently available in the Western world, it can be done today. What is available in India for 2 and 2.5 dollars a month? No, because that is a pricing which is extremely low,” Mitttal said.
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Earlier in the day, OneWeb constellation took total count of its constellation to 618 satellites with the launch of 36 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites by NewSpace India Limited (NSIL).
Indian Space Research Organization’s Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3) placed 36 OneWeb satellites in a low earth orbit following a successful launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
Talking about affordability, Mittal said that some of the governments overseas have deployed universal services obligation fund to bring down the cost of satellite broadband services for their citizens.
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He said that the launch will bring high-speed equivalent to 4G plus or 5G services for in-flight and maritime services.
“80 per cent of the bandwidth has already been contracted globally. We now have USD 800-900 million of contract across the globe now. Our pricing is very competitive in the satellite segment,” Mittal said.
He said that the company is operational now in most of countries in northern hemisphere and regretted exit of Russia from OneWeb business map.
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“We had a big setback with Russia-Ukraine war. Six launches that were fully paid for were taken out. Not only OneWeb has been struggling to get money back, it lost 36 satellites,” Mittal said.
He said that India has emerged as one of the serious players in space industry.
“There are only very few options left. SpaceX is one of the companies but you know they’re also our competitors. But I’m glad they stepped up to give us three rockets. But importantly, I think the prime minister of India recognised the moment and directed the entire space ecosystem in India to step up and give two rockets to OneWeb, that to my mind has been a game changer for us,” Mittal said.
He said that the launch marks a very important day for India where is to ISRO and NCIL have established themselves as a serious significant player in the commercial space launch industry in the world.
He said that each launch in India cost around Rs 500 crore.
While OneWeb has the permit for satellite services launch, it needs to wait till Spacecom Policy is in place and spectrum is allocated to the company for transmitting signals.
Mittal said that the spectrum for satellites is a shared resource and globally it has been allocated without auction.
“I personally don’t feel that India will go away from the global practices,” Mittal said.
He said that OneWeb has global capacity of 1.1 TBPS of which 11 GBPS is dedicated for India.
He said that OneWeb is in discussion with companies to manufacture user satellite terminals in India.
“India will become a destination to manufacture these terminals because Chinese terminals are unlikely to be manufactured in most part of the world,” Mittal said.
The Bharti group founder also said that he expects all permission required for services launch in India to be in place by July-August and the company will sell the service through partners instead of selling it directly.
“We will not be going to go to end customers. I am not going to fight with Airtel, Jio, Vodafone or globally any telecom operator. We are combining with them,” Mittal said.
He said that the company has had discussions with Indian armed forces, navy and everyone is waiting for the services.
“Airtel enterprise wing will be selling these services to enterprise customers. Our joint venture with Hughes will be primary source of sales into the rest of the market including government, defence,” Mittal said.
Indian Space Association Director General A K Bhatt said that the completion of last leg of the first-generation LEO constellation of 600 satellites by Bharti-backed OneWeb has set a significant benchmark for the entire Indian space industry in downstream application of satellite communication in India.
“This will surely aid in addressing the issue of low fixed broadband penetration and bridge the digital divide in the country’s most remote areas. We are excited about the potential it holds and the positive impact it will have on our nation’s aspirations for digital transformation,” Bhatt said.