SpaceX looks forward to connecting rural communities around the world to the Internet. The company says it is building the world’s most advanced broadband satellite network, designed to serve people living in places where internet access is unreliable or completely unavailable. Nearly 75% of rural India does not have access to internet, nor advanced mobile services that offer a data plan because fiber-optic cables and other infrastructures are too expensive to set up across low-income regions in the country. SpaceX's Starlink constellation can help people across the country directly have access to the internet utility, simply by plugging in a Starlink antenna and Wi-Fi router to an electricity source and wirelessly access the internet on devices. “Starlink internet works by sending information through the vacuum of space, where it travels much faster than in fiber-optic cable and can reach far more people and places,” the company states. With approximately 1,944 internet-beaming satellites operating in Low Earth Orbit, SpaceX is directly beaming internet data to over 140,000 customers across 20 countries. The company is accepting global pre-orders of the service via its website Starlink.com.
However, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has not yet authorized SpaceX to connect India residents to the Starlink network. The government agency asked its residents not to pre-order the broadband satellite internet service until the company obtains full approval to sale its services in the country. “[…] The Government of India has asked the company to comply with Indian regulatory framework for rendering the satellite based communication services and refrain from booking/rendering the satellite internet services in India with immediate effect,” DoT representatives announced via Twitter on November 26.
This week, on January 4th, Starlink customers report via social media receiving an e-mail from SpaceX that offers India customers a refund of the $99 USD Starlink internet service pre-order. “The Starlink team is looking forward to making Starlink available in India as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the timeline for receiving licenses to operate is currently unknown, and there are several issues that must be resolved within the licensing framework to allow us to operate Starlink in India,” SpaceX wrote to India customers who pre-ordered, “Until that time, we have been directed by India's Department of Telecommunications to refund pre-orders until we are licensed. As has always been the case, you can receive a refund at any time—24 hours a day, 7 days a week […],” they wrote and listed the steps to follow to receive a refund. “Thank you for supporting Starlink. We remain excited to serve India.” You can read the full e-mail in the image below.
SpaceX had elaborate plans to rollout Starlink in India. First, it planned to provide 100 Starlink hardware kits free-of-charge for rural Indian communities to access the satellite network; 20 Starlink Kits were to be delivered to schools in Delhi and 80 for schools in a rural district located close to Delhi. Then, SpaceX representatives planned to identify 12 rural districts, three situated in each region - North, South, East & West - across the country to enable internet access. By the end of 2022, the company’s goal was to operate at least 200,000 Starlink devices, 160,000 of those in rural communities across India. Now the plans have been delayed until the company receives regulatory approval.
Source: India Starlink Customer via Reddit
Featured Image Source: SpaceX