Elon Musk Will Return Money To Indians For Satellite Internet; Launch Postponed?

Starlink has already received over 5,000 pre-orders for its devices in India
Starlink has already received over 5,000 pre-orders for its devices in India

Elon Musk’s satellite network Starlink has had a flurry of developments in its Indian arm. On Jan 4, 2022, Starlink informed its members of the Indian Govt’s direction to refund all its pre-orders until it gets an appropriate license to do so in the country.

Later in the day, the satellite internet company’s India head Sanjay Bhargava has stepped down from his position, which he intimated through a LinkedIn post, without stating any reason for doing so.

Starlink Had Received Backlash from Indian Telecom Regulator

In an attempt to provide high-speed internet connectivity services for rural areas and those where fiber optic cables and cell towers are unable to reach, the American aerospace company SpaceX has set up the Starlink network, which provides satellite broadband services.

In February 2021, Stralink rolled out pre-reservation invites in India, for services it would provide in 2022. A deposit fee of $99 would ensure one’s position for purchase of the equipment.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) prohibited Starlink from asking for any telecom business or collect any related fees for its telecom related business services in India without having necessary authorisations, on Dec 7.

About a week prior to TRAI’s notice, the Department of Telecommunications sent a notification to  Musk’s satellite service provider arm in India, to discontinue seeking pre-bookings for its services in the country as it does not have any licence to do so.

“Starlink Internet Services is required to desist from soliciting telecom business and collecting related fees…etc, without having received necessary authorisations and adhering to relevant statutory provisions,” stated the regulator.

In response to this, Starlink’s India head Sanjay Bhargava ensured that it would apply for a commercial licence in India by January 31, and targets to install about 2 lakh terminals in the country by the end of 2022, provided the rollouts start by April.

Starlink Emails Indian Customers

On Jan 4, 2022, Starlink sent an email to its customers in India, stating that the Indian government had asked the company to refund all its pre-orders until it receives licences to operate in the country.

“As has always been the case, you can receive a refund at any time,” said the company, cites Reuters.

Starlink has already received over 5,000 pre-orders for its devices in India but is struggling to receive commercial licences without which it cannot offer services in the country.

“Unfortunately, the timeline for receiving licences to operate is currently unknown, and there are several issues that must be resolved with the licensing framework to allow us to operate Starlink in India,” it added.

Starlink India Head Quits

Later on Jan 4, Starlink’s India Head Sanjay Bhargava announced that he has quit the company and served his last working day on Dec 31, 2021. 

“I will have no comments for individuals and the media so please respect my privacy,” Bhargava added in his LinkeIn post.

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