Lib­er­al­is­ing Sat­coms in In­dia: Op­por­tu­ni­ties for En­hanced Eco­nomic Growth

Voice&Data - - CONTENTS - Source: Broad­band In­dia Fo­rum

The Broad­band In­dia Fo­rum (BIF) and In­dian Coun­cil for Re­search on In­ter­na­tional Eco­nomic Re­la­tions (ICRIER) re­cently pub­lished a re­port ti­tled lib­er­al­is­ing satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions in In­dia. This re­port looks at the reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment for satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tion across sev­eral coun­tries along with a dis­cus­sion on how the mar­ket has evolved glob­ally. It fo­cuses on the po­ten­tial de­mand for com­mer­cial satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions in In­dia, with il­lus­tra­tions around cur­rent ap­pli­ca­tions as well as fu­ture use cases

There is a global com­par­i­son of pol­icy frame­works for sat­com with an il­lus­tra­tion of the cur­rent pol­icy and reg­u­la­tory frame­work in In­dia. It of­fers pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions that could help fa­cil­i­tate the growth of com­mer­cial satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions with­out af­fect­ing the strate­gic re­quire­ments from the sec­tor.

Pol­icy Rec­om­men­da­tions

The re­port finds po­ten­tial for sat­com ap­pli­ca­tions in In­dia’s dig­i­tal fu­ture. The gov­ern­ment has also ac­knowl­edged the role of sat­com to meet the de­mands of the emerg­ing era of hy­per com­mu­ni­ca­tion and data util­i­sa­tion. The DoT rec­og­nizes that meet­ing am­bi­tious tar­gets laid down in the Na­tional Dig­i­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Pol­icy (NDCP 2018) will re­quire a mix of tech­nolo­gies.

Over de­pen­dence on mo­bile wire­less tech­nolo­gies may not be ad­e­quate to achieve the am­bi­tious tar­gets of 1 GB for ev­ery panchayat go­ing up to 10 GB, at 50 Mbps speeds laid down in the pol­icy. This re­port il­lus­trates ex­ist­ing, as well as promis­ing po­ten­tial use cases for sat­com in In­dia, and has ar­gued for satel­lites com­ple­ment­ing ter­res­trial com­mu­ni­ca­tions ca­pa­bil­i­ties in ex­tend­ing con­nec­tiv­ity to the most chal­leng­ing ge­o­graph­i­cal and topo­log­i­cal ter­rains of the coun­try.

DTH RIOS and mul­ti­cas­t­ing with con­tent caching, flight and mar­itime con­nec­tiv­ity, con­sumer broad­band and satel­lite back­haul are among the key ap­pli­ca­tions for sat­com in the fu­ture. For this growth to be un­leashed, we rec­om­mend the fol­low­ing pol­icy ini­tia­tives:

• Mov­ing to­wards mar­ket-led mech­a­nisms for pro­vi­sion of satel­lite band­width:

The com­par­i­son of pol­icy ar­chi­tec­tures and reg­u­la­tory in­ter­ven­tions that gov­ern sat­com in In­dia vis-à-vis other coun­tries presents a case for mov­ing to­wards a mar­ket­driven regime for satel­lite ser­vices in In­dia. Global best prac­tices find that band­width con­tract­ing is di­rectly done be­tween the sup­plier and user of B2B satel­lite ser­vices and in some cases di­rectly with the en­ter­prise/ end con­sumer in case of B2C ser­vices.

De­vel­op­ing coun­tries such as In­dia with size­able in­fras­truc­tural deficits can re­alise both quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive im­prove­ments in their eco­nomic growth and qual­ity of life by un­leash­ing the in­no­va­tive and ef­fi­cient ca­pac­i­ties of the private sec­tor in sat­com. It is im­por­tant to note that this pro­posed pol­icy shift is be­ing char­ac­ter­ized as ‘grad­ual’ since it would be both fea­si­ble from a na­tional se­cu­rity per­spec­tive, while at the same time ben­e­fi­cial for ap­pli­ca­tion to emerg­ing ser­vices such as con­sumer broad­band and mo­bil­ity.

Open­ing the sup­ply of satel­lite ca­pac­ity to private play­ers will im­prove ac­cess to lat­est and in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies at an af­ford­able cost. Se­lec­tive dereg­u­la­tion may not nec­es­sar­ily come at the cost of na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns, where pos­si­ble the gov­ern­ment must con­sider open­ing up satel­lite ser­vices for private par­tic­i­pa­tion that low­ers cost of band­width and en­cour­ages its adop­tion across po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tions.

In order to ad­dress con­cerns re­lated to se­cu­rity and loss of over­sight on con­tent trans­mit­ted over for­eign

satel­lites, the gov­ern­ment can adapt al­ter­nate prin­ci­ples pro­posed by the EMEA Satel­lite Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion (ESOA) in­stead of im­pos­ing additional reg­u­la­tory bur­dens such as the in­stal­la­tion of costly lo­cal tech­ni­cal fa­cil­i­ties. For ex­am­ple, in the case of fixed satel­lite ser­vices, the gov­ern­ment can iden­tify a non-dis­crim­i­na­tory way (not dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween do­mes­tic and for­eign op­er­a­tors) of au­tho­ris­ing en­ti­ties with ap­pro­pri­ate per­mis­sions to ‘up­link’ to a satel­lite.

• Sep­a­ra­tion of reg­u­la­tory pow­ers and func­tions:

In order to reap the ben­e­fits of In­dia’s tele­coms revo­lu­tion, which, to a sig­nif­i­cant de­gree, were sus­tained and nur­tured due to a clear sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers and func­tions be­tween DoT, TRAI and TDSAT, lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tion must be en­cour­aged. ISRO’s fo­cus could be re­aligned to its orig­i­nal man­date of re­search and devel­op­ment, as well as launch­ing satel­lites, in order to achieve a clear dis­tinc­tion of pow­ers and func­tions.

The com­mer­cial arms An­trix and NSIL, if cor­po­ra­tized and spun off as sep­a­rate pub­lic sec­tor en­ti­ties, can com­pete along­side other private sec­tor op­er­a­tors. A clear de­lin­eation of func­tions is nec­es­sary for the com­mer­cial units. Pol­icy and reg­u­la­tion for all com­mer­cial tele­coms via satel­lite could be brought un­der the purview of DoT and TRAI in con­sul­ta­tion with DoS and ISRO to en­sure co­or­di­nated satel­lites and fre­quen­cies.

In ma­ture pol­icy regimes such as the US, the space agency NASA is more fo­cused on re­search & devel­op­ment in strate­gic ar­eas and does not in­ter­fere with com­mer­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Sim­i­larly, the Euro­pean Space Agency, also fo­cuses on strate­gic in­ter­ests of the re­gion, while the com­mer­cial satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions are left to the in­dus­try.

• En­cour­ag­ing satel­lite broad­band:

A strat­egy of aug­men­ta­tion of ex­ist­ing ter­res­trial broad­band ca­pac­ity is much needed, es­pe­cially in re­mote ar­eas of the coun­try where the con­nec­tiv­ity spillovers lead­ing to rapid eco­nomic growth are yet to be achieved. More­over, there ex­ist size­able tracts of ur­ban ar­eas that are un­cov­ered by ter­res­trial modes that could ben­e­fit from satel­lite con­nec­tiv­ity.

With tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments, satel­lite broad­band may not nec­es­sar­ily be a sub­sti­tute to ter­res­trial al­ter­na­tives, but work to­gether as com­ple­men­tary ap­pli­ca­tions, es­pe­cially in the de­ploy­ment of 5G.

• Ca­pac­ity aug­men­ta­tion through indige­nous private satel­lite ser­vice providers:

As high­lighted above, In­dia’s sat­com ca­pac­ity is much lower than de­sir­able for achiev­ing the ob­jec­tives of Dig­i­tal In­dia. While the Depart­ment of Space (DoS) has pre­vi­ously claimed that In­dia has less than 50% of the satel­lite ca­pac­ity it needs, the ac­tual fig­ures might in­fact be much lower.

Private play­ers must be al­lowed to set up In­dia-cen­tric com­mer­cial broad­band satel­lite sys­tems to bridge the ca­pac­ity gap. The gov­ern­ment must en­cour­age do­mes­tic com­pa­nies to pro­vide com­mer­cial broad­band us­ing emerg­ing HTS tech­nolo­gies.

• En­abling in-flight mo­bile con­nec­tiv­ity through sat­com:

With the no­ti­fi­ca­tion of the Flight and Mar­itime Con­nec­tiv­ity Rules no­ti­fied in De­cem­ber 2018 the path has been laid out for air­lines and tele­com ser­vice providers to pro­vide in­flight con­nec­tiv­ity in the In­dian airspace. How­ever, the com­mer­cial­iza­tion and sub­se­quent rev­enue gen­er­a­tion from th­ese ser­vices will be con­strained by the costs of ser­vice pro­vi­sion.

As high­lighted above, the in­creased par­tic­i­pa­tion from the private sec­tor will help lower the cost of satel­lite band­width, make pro­vi­sion for ad­e­quate band­width and thereby make the cost of in-flight con­nec­tiv­ity af­ford­able for con­sumers.

• En­cour­ag­ing non-com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions of sat­com:

ISRO al­ready de­ploys satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy for a se­ries of non-com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions which have a di­rect so­cio-eco­nomic ben­e­fit. Some of th­ese ap­pli­ca­tions in­clude pro­vi­sion of tele-medicine, tele-ed­u­ca­tion, rail­way sig­nal­ing, nav­i­ga­tion and dis­as­ter man­age­ment ser­vices.

En­cour­ag­ing in­vest­ments in such ap­pli­ca­tions can have sig­nif­i­cant so­cio-eco­nomic im­pacts in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try such as In­dia. It will ex­hibit the ca­pac­ity of sat­com for trans­for­ma­tional in­ter­ven­tions to the private sec­tor, set­ting off a vir­tu­ous cy­cle of in­vest­ments in sat­com sup­ported ser­vices and so­cial in­fra­struc­ture.

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