The Indian government has asked Starlink to refund all its pre-orders until it receives licenses to operate in the country.
“As has always been the case, you can receive a refund at any time,” the company said in an email to one of its customers. Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing a copy of the email which it had seen.
Starlink has already gotten more than 5,000 pre-orders for its devices in India but is struggling to receive commercial licenses without which it cannot offer services in the country.
“Unfortunately, the timeline for receiving licenses to operate is currently unknown, and there are several issues that must be resolved with the licensing framework to allow us to operate Starlink in India,” the company said in the email.
“The Starlink team is looking forward to making Starlink available in India as soon as possible,” it said.
Starlink aims to provide low-latency broadband internet services around the world, with a particular focus on remote areas that terrestrial internet infrastructure struggles to reach. SpaceX has told investors that Starlink is angling for a piece of a $1 trillion market made up of in-flight internet, maritime services, demand in China and India – and rural customers.
However, the Indian government is not allowing the company’s operations in the country until it acquires the necessary licenses.
The company is planning to apply for a commercial license in India by the end of January. Its country head Sanjay Bhargava had said in a social media post last month, and a presentation showed that with an April rollout, it targeted 200,000 devices in India by December 2022.
However, in a LinkedIn post on Tuesday Bhargava said he has stepped down as country director and board chairman due to “personal reasons”.
In India, Starlink had planned to “carry on the business of telecommunication services” including satellite broadband internet services, content storage, and streaming, multimedia communication, among others. It also aimed to deal in devices such as satellite phones, network equipment, wired and wireless communication devices, as well as data transmission and reception equipment.
The company also said it will focus on “catalyzing rural development” in India with the help of its broadband services, according to a company presentation shared by Bhargava on LinkedIn over the weekend.
Starlink had planned in the first phase to give 100 devices for free to schools in Delhi and nearby rural districts and then target 12 rural districts across India.
Starlink’s rivals include Amazon.com’s Kuiper and OneWeb – a collapsed satellite operator rescued by the British government and India’s Bharti Group.