Jio announces own satellite-based broadband in India as Elon Musk’s Starlink struggles to find feet

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Reliance Jio has entered into a partnership with SES to launch a joint venture called Jio Space Technology Limited and it will develop satellite-based broadband technology in India with up to 100Gbps speed.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Jio will launch satellite-based broadband services in India.
  • It has formed a joint venture in partnership with Luxembourgish SES.
  • Jio Space Technology Limited will rival Elon Musk’s Starlink.

Reliance Jio on Monday said it will launch satellite-based broadband services across India in partnership with Luxembourg-based telecommunications company, SES. A joint venture called the Jio Space Technology Limited will spearhead the development of broadband services by leveraging a combination of geostationary (GEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellations. The broadband service, Jio said, will be capable of delivering multi-gigabit links and capacity to enterprises, mobile backhaul and retail customers with a maximum speed of 100Gbps.

Although there is no name for Jio’s new satellite-based broadband service, it poses a threat to Elon Musk’s Starlink, which is struggling to find a way to the homes of India’s internet users. Musk’s Starlink began taking pre-orders last year in India, but after the intervention of the Indian government regarding licensing of its internet services, the company had to halt its market launch. Starlink, after receiving a blow, had to refund the pre-order money to interested users, who were equally disappointed by the government’s decision.

Starlink may still not have launched officially in India, but it gave the necessary impetus to India’s own internet service providers to pursue the satellite-based broadband technology space in the race to win it first. Airtel previously announced that it has formed a joint venture with Hughes Communications India to provide satellite-based internet services in India. And Jio’s is the latest entry into this space.

Jio has announced that it owns 51 per cent equity in the joint venture, while SES holds a 49 per cent stake. “As part of [the] investment plan, the joint venture will develop extensive gateway infrastructure in India to provide services within the country,” said Reliance Jio. “Jio, as an anchor customer of the joint venture, has entered into a multi-year capacity purchase agreement, based on certain milestones along with gateways and equipment purchase with [a] total contract value of circa [the] US $100 million.”

The joint venture, Jio Space Technology, will leverage SES-12, SES’s high-throughput GEO satellite that caters to India, and O3b mPOWER, SES’s MEO constellation, to extend and enhance Jio’s terrestrial network, “increasing access to digital services and applications.” But, while the new venture will focus on the satellite-based internet, Jio will continue to work towards Jio’s fibre-based connectivity and FTTH business and expand it. Investment towards the development of 5G will also continue, said Akash Ambani, director of Jio.

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