Despite taking pre-bookings, the Indian government stated Elon Musk’s Starlink internet service does not have a licence to operate in the country.
Starlink was ordered by India’s Department of Telecommunications, which is part of the Ministry of Communications, to suspend sales of satellite internet services in the country “with immediate effect” until the licences are obtained. Similarly, the government urged the public not to acquire Starlink internet, pre-ordered on the SpaceX subsidiary’s website for $99 with a $99 deposit.
The Starlink starter set, which includes a stand, power supply, and wifi router, costs $499. Additionally, consumers must pay a $99 monthly subscription.
“For rendering satellite-based services in India, requisite license(s) from Department of Telecommunications, Government of India are required. It is hereby informed to the public at large that the said company has not obtained any license/authorization for rendering satellite-based internet services that are being booked on their website,” said the government.
“Accordingly, the Government has asked the company to comply with the Indian regulatory framework for rendering the satellite-based communication services and refrain from booking/rendering the satellite internet services in India with immediate effect.”
At the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona in July 2021, Elon Musk announced that Starlink “should have global connectivity everywhere except the poles.” in month of August. Unfortunately, this deadline came in more than a month ahead of schedule. This could explain why Starlink hasn’t been able to obtain Indian permits in a timely manner.
According to Starlink India director Sanjay Bhargava, the company is still “in the process of securing approvals to ship Starlinks to India,” and that broadband is a critical driver of rural development. The company is attempting to identify the 12 districts where Starlinks will be first deployed following the proof of concept.
The company plans to have 200,000 Starlinks across the country by December 2022. The goal of Starlink internet is to connect people and places that would otherwise be inaccessible to the internet.
Although it appears that Starlink did not try to conceal this information, likely, it did not expect the government to be so stern, which is why it continued to accept pre-orders. However, in this case, you can understand the government’s reaction. It is not ordering Starlink not to sell but rather to follow the guidelines before doing so.
Furthermore, during this pandemic, government approvals are not guaranteed to be expedited.