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TRAI makes recommendations on satellite-based connectivity for low bit-rate applications

Comments/counter-comments were invited from the stakeholders by 7 May.

New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has released the recommendations on "Licensing Framework for Satellite-based connectivity for low bit rate applications" for both commercial and captive usage.

The recommendations come after the Department of Telecom (DoT) highlighted a need for a suitable licensing framework considering the constraints of the existing provisions in respect of proposed Satellite-based low bit-rate services. In its letter dated 23 November 2020, DoT had requested Trai to examine all the factors holistically and make recommendations.

Low bit-rate applications and IoT devices require low cost, low power, and small size terminals that can effectively perform the task of signal transfer with minimum loss. Many sparsely populated areas with important economic activities suited for IoT-related services may not have terrestrial coverage or other forms of connectivity. Therefore, Satellites can help bridge this gap by providing coverage to even the most remote areas and will help in fulfilling connect India mission.

Trai had initially issued a consultation paper on 12 March inviting comments and counter-comments from stakeholders by 7 May. “The authority received 29 comments and four counter comments from various stakeholders. An Open House Discussion (OHD) was also convened on the issues raised in the Consultation Paper on dated 2 June 2021 through video conferencing,” said Trai in a media statement.

The regulator has recommended that for provision of satellite-based connectivity for IoT and low-bit-rate applications, the relevant service licensees may provide connectivity as per the scope of their authorisation for any kind of network topology model including hybrid model, aggregator model and direct-to-satellite model.

All types of satellite - Geo Stationary Orbit (GSO) and Non-GSO (NGSO) satellites and any of the permitted satellite frequency bands may be used for providing satellite-based low-bit-rate connectivity. The Service Licensees should be permitted to obtain satellite bandwidth from foreign satellites in all the permitted satellite bands in order to provide satellite-based services.

It also recommended that the relevant existing authorisations under the Unified Licensing framework may be suitably amended for enabling satellite-based low-bit-rate connectivity. “The government may come out with a road map detailing the schedule of the launch of communication satellites and availability of the domestic satellite capacities in India to facilitate the service licensees to plan and optimise their capacity procurement,” it added.

Other recommendations include measures to make the services cheaper and affordable like permitting the hiring of foreign capacities for a longer period as per need instead of three to five years, removal of facilitation charges by the government when hiring foreign capacities from the approved list of foreign satellites/satellite systems, etc.

According to Trai, DoT should also put in place a comprehensive, simplified, end-to-end coordinated, single window online common portal for all the agencies involved in the grant of various approvals/permissions etc, wherein the service licensees can place their request and the agencies respond online in a transparent and time-bound manner.

Last September, the then chairman of Trai, R S Sharma, had also called for an urgent need to bring down the price of broadband services provided through satellites, asserting that its current high price could pose a challenge in its adoption in the country.

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