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Starlink to focus on 10 rural Lok Sabha constituencies for broadband connectivity

Satellite company Starlink, led by world’s one of the richest entrepreneurs Elon Musk, will focus on 10 rural Lok Sabha constituencies to provide internet services, according to a top company official.

The company is also looking to hold virtual conversations with Members of Parliament, ministers and top government officials over the importance of broadband connectivity in changing lives in rural areas.

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.

Starlink Country Director for India 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.”

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.

However, he expressed uncertainty over the target number of terminals if the company does not get permission from the government to start satellite-based service in India.

The company is charging a deposit of USD 99 or Rs 7,350 per customer and claims to deliver data speeds in the range of 50 to 150 megabit per second in beta stage.

“The number of pre-orders from rural constituencies will be one factor that helps us select focus constituencies,” Bhargava said.

The services of the company will compete with that of Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea in broadband and it will be a direct competitor to Bharti Group-backed OneWeb.

In the post, Bhargava said that the company would be working with rural constituencies who were keen to have 100 per cent broadband.

“Most of this will be provided by terrestrial broadband, but the hard-to-serve areas will be handled by Satcom providers like Starlink. We look forward to the day a rural constituency in India can declare itself to be 100 per cent broadband,” Bhargava said.

Bharti-backed OneWeb, a satellite communications company, has plans to offer its services in India from May 2022.

Telecom and satellite operators are in a dispute over spectrum allocation for mobile services particularly in frequency bands that are considered fit for 5G services.

The Department of Telecom has sought views of telecom regulator Trai on spectrum allocation but the future of satellite-based broadband services is dependent on the method and process that the government will choose for the allocation of radiowaves.

Satellite players do not want spectrum to be allocated to them through auction. Telecom operators have demanded for level playing in spectrum allocation as they get the radiowaves through auction only.

In a pre-order note, Starlink said that its service is available in many countries and it will be easier for it to get government approvals if it has a high number of pre-orders from India.

“The government approval process is complex. So far there is no application pending with the government, so the ball is in our court to apply for consideration which we are working on. Our approach will be to get pilot approval quickly if pan India approval will take long.

“We are optimistic that we will get approval for a pilot programme or Pan India approval in the next few months,” the note had said.

Starlink project takes Musk’s SpaceX valuation to $100 billion

Driven by its ambitious Starlink project, Elon Musk-run SpaceX has received a &100 billion valuation by US-based investment bank Morgan Stanley — from $52 billion just three months ago.

The bank’s “bull case” which is the absolute best-case scenario — puts the rocket company at a value above $200 billion, report Forbes.

The bank has raised the estimated value of Starlink to $81 billion.

While SpaceX’s launch business is valued at $12 billion, its point-to-point space travel is valued at $9 billion, describing Musk’s space business as “mission control” for the “emerging space economy.”

A Morgan Stanley research note said that “the pieces are coming together for SpaceX to create an economic and technology flywheel”.

“Investors just valued SpaceX in August, when the company raised $1.9 billion in funding — at a valuation of $46 billion” then.

Last week, SpaceX launched 60 more Starlink satellites aboard Falcon 9 rocket to be deployed in low-Earth orbit, bringing the constellation to 788 as the company gears up for a public beta of the affordable satellite broadband service.

SpaceX recently presented the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Starlink internet performance tests, showing it was capable of download speeds of between 102Mbps to 103Mbps, upload speeds of 40.5Mbps to not quite 42Mbps, and a latency of 18 milliseconds to 19 milliseconds.

“Once these satellites reach their target position, we will be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta in the northern US and hopefully southern Canada,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet earlier this month.

“Other countries to follow as soon as we receive regulatory approval,” he added.

It is expected that there will be gigabit speeds on offer, meaning up to 1Gbps Internet speeds, with a fairly low latency of up to 25ms.

Starlink plans to offer these Internet services for around $80 per month, which is priced at par if not lower than similar speed broadband plans in most countries, including India.

Jeff Bezos retired to file lawsuits against SpaceX: Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Friday openly criticised former Amazon CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos on Twitter, saying he has taken retirement only to file lawsuits against SpaceX.

Earlier this month, Bezos-owned space firm Blue Origin sued NASA for picking Musk-owned SpaceX for its prestigious $2.9 billion Moon lander programme.

After the lawsuit, the US space agency put SpaceX’s contract on hold for the second time.

Replying to a follower, Musk tweeted: “Turns out Bezos retired in order to pursue a full-time job filing lawsuits against SpaceX…”

Amazon this week urged the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to dismiss plans by SpaceX to launch another cluster of satellites to power its ambitious space internet service called Starlink.

Starlink is currently powered by around 1,740 low earth orbit satellites, which serve an estimated 90,000 customers globally. The company is set to launch 30,000 second-generation satellites to boost the internet network.

According to court filings, NASA voluntarily agreed to temporarily suspend the SpaceX contract until November 1, this year, while the US Court of Federal Claims adjudicated the case.

NASA agreed to halt SpaceX’s contract on the condition that all parties agreed to “an expedited litigation schedule that concludes on November 1,” a spokesperson for the agency was quoted as saying.

“NASA officials are continuing to work with the Department of Justice to review the details of the case and look forward to a timely resolution of this matter,” the spokesperson added.

Blue Origin sued NASA over its April decision to pick only SpaceX’s Starship rocket system for the agency’s first human lunar landing system since 1972.

The US space agency was expected to pick two lunar lander prototypes (including one of Blue Origin’s) but funding cuts from the US Congress led the agency to select SpaceX over Blue Origin.

Escalating his space war with Musk, Bezos in an open letter to the NASA Administrator Bill Nelson had said that his company would close the US space agency’s near-term budgetary shortfall and produce a safe and sustainable lander that will return Americans to the surface of the Moon — this time to stay.

But, despite the delays, SpaceX has made swift progress on its Starship system and has moved the programme along using mostly private funds, the report said.

The first Starship prototype bound for orbit will be ready for launch “in a few weeks,” Musk tweeted.

Bezos, who founded Amazon exactly 24 years ago on July 5, 1994, officially stepped down in July this year, and former AWS executive Andy Jassy took over as the CEO of the e-commerce behemoth.