India Tells SpaceX to Halt Starlink Efforts Immediately

According to The Economic Times, India’s Ministry of Communications holds that SpaceX is no longer allowed to accept pre-orders for its upcoming Starlink satellite broadband service from the country’s residents.

The ministry says Starlink is not licensed to offer satellite-based internet services in India yet, and so cannot accept pre-orders for a service it has not gotten regulatory approval for.

“The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has pointed out that Starlink Internet Services is not licensed to offer satellite-based internet services in India being advertised to the public… the government, (accordingly), has asked the company to comply with the Indian regulatory framework for rendering satellite-based communication services and refrain from booking/rendering such services in India with immediate effect,” said the communications the in a statement.

The DoT, a branch of the Ministry of Communications, also warned Indians against subscribing to Starlink.

“It’s hereby informed to the public at large that the said company (Starlink Internet) has not obtained any licence/authorization for rendering satellite-based internet services that are being booked on their website,” said the DoT. The company “needs the requisite licence(s) from DoT” before it can accept any kind of orders for internet services in Indian territory, it added.

However, Indian citizens in the low thousands have already placed pre-orders for the service. Head of SpaceX’s Starlink in India, Sanjay Bhargava, recently said that pre-orders from India had already crossed 5,000.

Bhargava had even encouraged potential customers to put down a deposit on their Starlink subscription for a place on the company’s priority list instead of being waitlisted.

Starlink India has been accepting pre-orders for the service for a (fully refundable) deposit of $99 (around ₹7,400). The Starlink service came out of beta earlier this month.

Bhargava declined to comment on the government order and what it will mean for Starlink’s rollout plans in India.

According to the Starlink website, the service is currently eyeing next year for a launch in India, with availability subject to “regulatory approvals” and orders being fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.

The hitch comes at a time when not just SpaceX but Bharti Global-backed OneWeb, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, and Tata-Telesat are all vying to enter India’s budding broadband-from-space segment, leveraging their respective global low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations.

As of August, Starlink has over 90,000 users in 12 countries. Prior to launching in India, Starlink is seeking collaboration with not only local manufacturers but also adjacent industries in the country of over one billion people.

Starlink did always plan on getting the required regulatory approvals before officially launching Starlink in India, much like it did in other countries like Australia — all SpaceX was doing up until now was accepting pre-orders, not rendering any actual services.