India approves backhaul satellite connectivity via VSAT for telecom services; BharatNet tender coming soon

India’s Digital Communications Commission (DCC), formerly the Telecom Commission, has authorized use of satellite connectivity in telecom networks to provide services in remote areas where it is difficult to lay fiber optic cable.  As a result, VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals) operators will now be able to provide satellite-based cellular backhaul connectivity to telcos in India.  That enables Indian wireless telecom communications service providers, like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea, to use satellite capacity from VSAT license holders, such as Hughes, Nelco and BSNL, to connect their cell sites.

“With a view of ease of doing business, the DCC has approved provision of cellular backhaul connectivity via satellite through VSAT for telecom services as per Trai recommendation,” said India’s Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash.

VSAT backhaul can also help Indian telcos cost-effectively extend coverage in rural and remote areas that are yet to be connected with fiber. Around 50% of India’s population is not yet connected to the Internet.

Several global LEO satellite providers, including Elon Musk’s Starlink, Bharti backed OneWeb and Amazon’s Project Kuiper, have recently started exploring the Indian market.  OneWeb specifically will offer satellite capacity for cellular backhaul, but will need a VSAT permit to provide satellite-based backhaul services to the telcos.

Starlink and Project Kuiper have different business models, focusing on providing satellite-based broadband Internet directly to end users.

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Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash also said that the DCC has also cleared the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the rollout of BharatNet project for broadband services in villages in 16 Indian states in public private partnership mode with viability gap funding of Rs 19,041 crore (or US$ 2,544,834.60).  “DoT (Department of Telecom) will come out with the tender for the PPP mode rollout of BharatNet in 16 states in seven days,” Prakash said.

India Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

BharatNet project objectives are to:

  1. To carry on the business of establishment, management and operation of National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) which has been envisaged by the Government of India to provide high speed broadband connectivity to all gram panchayats.
  2. To provide access to bandwidth in a non discriminatory manner to all eligible service providers to enable them to provide services in rural areas.

Comment and Analysis: 

Just as India’s 5G spectrum auction has been the victim of one delay after another, so has the BharatNet project.  The timeline for 2nd phase of the BharatNet project, earlier slated to be completed by August 2021, was extended with no definitive completion date.

“The phase-II project was envisaged to be completed by August 2021. However, this time will now be extended as the pace of completion is affected by and restrictions on movement imposed by the various Governments due to COVID-19,” said India Minister of State for Communications Sanjay Dhotre.

“The delay in the implementation by the states is also adversely affecting the completion of the project. For other states, not being implemented under state-led model, the implementation strategy is under the process of review,” he added.

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References:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/dcc-clears-backhaul-satellite-connectivity-via-vsat-for-telecom-services-rs-19041-cr-bharatnet-tender-dot-secy-7390480/

https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/dcc-clears-backhaul-satellite-connectivity-via-vsat-for-telecom-services-19041-cr-bharatnet-tender-dot-secy/article35153674.ece

http://bbnl.nic.in/

https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/bharatnet-s-phase-2-completion-timeline-to-be-extended-due-to-covid-dhotre-120091701226_1.html

https://www.lightreading.com/asia/india-lets-vsat-offer-satellite-backhaul-connectivity-to-csps/d/d-id/770701?

 

One thought on “India approves backhaul satellite connectivity via VSAT for telecom services; BharatNet tender coming soon

  1. SpaceX to focus on 10 rural Lok Sabha constituencies for 80% of Starlink terminals shipped to India

    SpaceX will shortly apply to the Indian government for a licence to launch its Starlink satellite broadband services in the country and is aiming to touch 200,000 active terminals by December 2022.

    https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/spacex-to-focus-on-10-rural-lok-sabha-constituencies-for-80-of-starlink-terminals-shipped-to-india-india-head/86724937

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