What is a broadband satellite service?
Broadband essentially means a technique of transmitting data with high bandwidth and high capacity, using a wide range of frequencies. In the case of a satellite broadband service, the broadband services are provided directly through satellites instead of fiber optic or mobile networks.
How is it different from existing broadband services?
The main difference between satellite broadband services and the more popular terrestrial means of delivering broadband services is that the aggregation of all data generated and transmitted by users accessing the Internet occurs in the sky or in space. , that is to say in the satellite. In contrast to this, if we take a look at cellular networks, a very popular means by which broadband services are provided in India, the aggregation occurs in the field, at base stations. This is the case with any other terrestrial means of delivering broadband – be it optical fiber, cable, etc.
Satellite broadband: a faster way to connect India
Another key difference is that in order to access satellite services we will need a satellite dish like we do in the case of TV services, so that a normal mobile handset cannot directly access broadband over the Internet. satellite. For a user to access broadband via satellite, a clear line of sight to the satellite is required.
What advantages does it offer?
The main advantage of satellite services is that you can provide high speed internet service in remote areas, where terrestrial networks cannot be installed, for example in the middle of the ocean, in rough and inaccessible terrain such as ‘Himalayas – even as far away as atop Mount Everest! In a country with a wide range of geographies like India, this is particularly relevant, given that 20-25% of India’s population resides in areas where it is extremely difficult for ground operators to locate.
Connecting every nook and cranny: Starlink gears up for launch in India
Who offers it and when will it be available in India?
Currently, VSAT operators are offering satellite broadband services at a very limited capacity in India in a few remote locations. The use of satellite services for broadband services is limited to minimal applications, such as disaster management, defense, scientific sites, etc. The main obstacles are the high latency of these services, which means that real-time transmission is difficult.
Things are changing, however, with the launch a few years ago of ISRO’s high-speed Geostationary Equitorial Orbit (GEO) satellites, which can broadcast the Internet at high speed. up to 300 gigabytes per second. That aside, many global players are looking to provide satellite broadband services in India by deploying low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. They launch a constellation of satellites very close to the Earth’s surface to reduce satellite broadband latency. Currently, Elon Musk’s Starlink, Sunil Bharti Mittal has supported OneWeb and leading Canadian satellite Telesat is eyeing the Indian market.
When will these services be available in India?
If things go as planned and actors get the necessary regulatory approvals, these services could become operational in India as early as next year. OneWeb wants to provide link services to carriers by the middle of next year, while Starlink wants to provide direct broadband services by December 2022, targeting 2 lakh terminals. Telesat, meanwhile, is planning a launch in India by 2024.
Providing direct broadband satellite services will be expensive. According to a user guide for India, provided by Starlink, the cost of the first year of a Starlink terminal will be 1,58,000, after which it will cost around 1,15,000 each year. This can prove to be a major obstacle for the Indian market (especially rural) which generates low average income per user. This is why OneWeb and Telesat are moving to B2B for their services, seeking to provide backhaul services for mobile operators in rural areas as well as enterprise services. Starlink, on the other hand, believes there is a business case for direct satellite broadband, even with high costs.
Has it been deployed in other parts of the world?
It’s the beginning. Starlink and OneWeb are still launching satellites that will be part of their LEO constellation. Telesat will begin building its constellation in 2023 and will be operational worldwide by 2024. However, as of this year, Starlink has been operational in 14 countries, with 1 lakh terminals shipped to North America and Europe.