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Indian government warns locals not to use Starlink's internet services

If you are going to sell satellite internet subscriptions in India, you Musk get a license, says regulator

The government of India has advised locals not to subscribe to SpaceX’s Starlink Internet service, revealing that it does not have a valid license to operate on the subcontinent.

Starlink registered its business in India on November 1, actively engaged in advertising and even pre-sold subscriptions. But it has not secured a license to operate, prompting India's Department of Telecommunications to issue a warning tweet.

A press release issued the same day offered more of the same, scalding Starlink by declaring "the Government has asked the company to comply with the Indian regulatory framework for rendering the satellite-based communication services and refrain from booking/rendering the satellite internet services in India with immediate effect."

The satellite internet company had been accepting preorders for a refundable deposit of ₹7,400 ($99).

Starlink's head of India, Sanjay Bhargava, recently said the company has signed over 5,000 customers. The outfit is outwardly confident that it can operate in India, as it is currently hiring "two rockstars" to join Bhargava and beef up its Indian operations, which will run under a wholly owned subsidiary called Starlink Satellite Communications Private Limited (SSCPL). Three weeks ago, Bhargava commented that SSCPL could "now start applying for licenses, open bank accounts etc."

Bhargava joined Starlink two months ago and wasted no time encouraging people to preorder and sign up for the service. "If you want to get Starlink quickly after we start shipping to India preorder your Starlink now. I preordered by just typing 'How to Preorder Starlink' in Google," he said in a LinkedIn post.

"Our stretch target is to have 200,000 terminals active in India in December 2022. Actual numbers maybe much lower than that or even zero if we do not get government approval but it is very unlikely that we will exceed 200,000," conceded Bhargava.

India is already home to 800 million broadband connections – a number that grew by 15 million between June and July 2021. Starlink's estimate of 200,000 subscribers in the next 14 months suggests it will not be a major player any time soon.

The Register suggests price is a factor – StarLink requires $99 just for a deposit. But India's largest mobile carrier, Jio, today announced new mobile broadband plans that offer 2GB of downloads each day, plus unlimited voice services, for four weeks at the princely sum of $2.05. Jio's flagship handset, which runs a special cut of Android, costs around $86 but can be paid off over many months. ®

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