Satellite Communications (SATCOM) – UPSC GS3

What is Satellite Communications (SATCOM)?
  • Satellite communication refers to any communication link that involves the use of an artificial satellite in its propagation path.
  • The commercial launch of SATCOM services for telecom industry is expected in India and companies such as Starlink, OneWeb and others are preparing for this.
  • They have plans to send thousands of LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellites into space to provide global coverage.
What are the benefits of  Satellite Communication (SATCOM) for India?
  • Can reach inaccessible areas: Around 20-25% of India’s population resides in places which can’t be easily covered by terrestrial telecom and lack mobile and internet access. These areas could easily be reached through satcom.
  • Lesser Cost in reaching difficult terrain areas: The rollout of terrestrial telecom in difficult terrain can cost 15 times more than its rollout in more accessible areas. Moreover, such regions are often under-populated with low average revenue per user. Satcom could dramatically improve the backhaul for mobile service providers in these areas.
  • Increased reliability and quality: Only about 35% of mobile base stations are fibre-connected. Satellite connectivity works better than microwave technology and is more feasible than fibre in difficult terrain. Hence, Satcom could increase the reliability and quality of existing mobile networks.
  • Satellite communication is expensive,
  • Setting up ground stations or gateways would require regulatory approvals in each country, and there could be inhibitions with conservative regulators.
  • There is no clear policy on Universal Licence (UL) specifically permitting international internet gateways.
Recommendations by TRAI
  • Reforming specifications to suit modern technologies and allowing satcom for cellular and Wi-Fi backhauls.
  • Permitting licences to obtain satellite bandwidth from foreign satellites and to lease satellite capacity from foreign satellites.
  • Technology neutrality in the use of all types of satellites for internet-of-things (IoT) applications.
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