Satcoms prices are coming down. Today, data in India costs less than that in the USA. We have, so far, not allowed to adopt the open sky policy. We need to implement the open sky policy in letter and in space, said Ram Sewak Sharma, Chairman, TRAI. He was delivering the inaugural address at the India Satcoms 2019 event, held in New Delhi, India. The event was organized by the Broadband India Forum.
RS Sharma added that TRAI is aware of many industry bodies in the ICT space. Sometimes, they may do some lobbying for some technology or group. This is a typical thing we have seen. We consult the stakeholders and examine as to where are the comments coming from. BIF has got a credibility and that has gone up. BIF represents a philolophy that we need to have the best technology.
The differences among constellations are now reducing. Regulatory disadvantages need to be ironed out. Every sector today leverages ICT. We are having a billion transactions over UPI per month. The digital identity infrastructure, Aadhar, almost has 8 billion authentications per month. ICT is going to play an extremely important role in the future. It will become the most important platform for the economy.
5G has three key strengths — massive M2M communications, low latency, and high bandwidth. India should be technology agnostic. India also needs to create a robust infrastructure. TRAI feels that we should unleash all forces for enhancing connectivity across the country.
India must also use satcoms wherever they are needed. Data gathered over satcoms can be analyzed easily. For example, it can automate the damage to crops. This will help us in governance. Wi-Fi, satcoms, broadband, etc., should be used more to connect the unconnected areas. We need to take care of the unconnected and under connected areas.
There is also an area of convergence. You can use multiple technologies. We should be technology agnostic and allow the market forces to play. We also need to have uniqueness of identity. Here, iris has a major role to play, via Aadhar. We need to have an open standard-based ecosystem that will help costs to reduce. The iris scanner prices came down to 1/10th. Once you use technology, the costs will come down. The same will happen in satcoms.
Therefore, we need to allow the uses of satcoms. India, being a large country, technologies need to be affordable. You also need to have ubiquitousness, to be interoperable. Certain characteristics will make technologies scalable and successful. With satcoms, there are huge number of sectors, verticals, areas, etc., where it is needed. We need to have data-driven decision making.
Dr K. Sivan, Secretary DoS, and Chairman, ISRO, in a video address, noted that the experts from various fields are participating at this event. Empowering the people to improve their living standards is all possible with a digital infrastructure. India is doing a great role in improving digital connectivity. ISRO has new HTS satellites. GSAT-20 is planned for launch in mid-2020. We will put up new HTS satellites over the next three to four years.
Satcoms plays a key role in connecting the unconnected places. Demand for satellite capacity are raplidly increasing. We are now at the doorsteps of 5G era. A lot of new apps will get added to our daily life. The DoS and DoT are working together to make a digital future in India. People in unreached and under reached places, should also get access to satelite technologies.
Earlier, TV Ramachandran, President, Broadband India Forum (BIF), said that for BIF, the fundamental be all and end all of our existence is an all inclusive broadband. Connectivity serves voice connectivity. People have been looking for broadband connectivity in rural areas. We all need to connect the unconnected. BIF is committed to the progress of satcoms. RS Sharma, Chairman, TRAI, has been guiding us in how to get more out of satcoms. We believe that awareness has started. We need to go a long way. Awareness of satcoms as a viable economic tool is not yet there. We want to create an awareness.
MF Farooqui, chairman, BIF, has known RS Sharma for over 40 years. He said that Sharma can take some very bold initiatives. He has down-to-earth realism. He has, over the years, grown phenomenally in his boldness of approach. At BIF, we are trying to tread new grounds. We need to find new areas that need to be highlighted, and work with the government closely, in a neutral way. We are a group that provokes thinking.
Satcoms is an approach whose time has come. We have seen how the telecom industry has grown. Everyone thought it could not be privatized. Satcoms was thought to be a private monopoly. The industry has changed the country, and increased the level of awareness at every level. We still have a lot of distance to cover. We need to fill the gaps left that are yet to be bridged. We can cross these bridges with a leap of faith, and a leap of technology.
Launching of satellites was considered to be a preserve of the government and govt bodies. Now, it has changed. There is SpaceX, for example. Satcoms is also no longer a government preserve. Privatisation in this sector will also grow very fast. Another point is the cost. The entire business case of telecoms has drastically changed. When you increase the number and the applications, the costs will come down dramatically. This is the whole background that makes us think the time for satcoms has come. It can actually touch the lives of the common man in many unimaginable ways.
For example, what kind of insurance mechanisms are possible for the common man and farmers? Huge leaps can be made via satcoms. The focus should be more on inclusive growth. We are also very proud of the Department of Space, and ISRO.
PJ Nath, MD and CEO, Tata Nelco, said that we need to look at the global context for satcoms in India. Businesses are truly becoming global. There are global customers, suppliers, value chains, partners and services. The satcoms industry is also at an inflexion point. Satcoms technology has evolved faster in the last 2-3 years, as against the last 20 years. India is not at the right point, in terms of not being able to take the advantage.
What do we do? India needs to leverage all of the latest technology developments. There is the emergence of non-geo satellite constellations. Quite a few of them will survive. There is also an abundance of capacity. High throughput satellites (HTS) will dominate the market. Fiber-like latency is now unlocking new markets. Satellite capacities are now becoming ample, credible and affordable.
Satellite value chains are also evolving. New satellite players are now operating teleports due to the advent of HTS. Service providers are expected to offer VAS, and will increasingly focus on customer experience. The industry is very competitive, globally. India needs to follow suit.
Customer expectations are also changing. There is borderless coverage and increasing bandwidth demand. There is buying globally and less regionally. Consolidated managed services are coming forth. There is continuous innovation. Mobility is driving satellite capacity demand. Airlines are adopting satellite-based IFC (inflight connectivity market) for passenger broadband service and aircraft maintenance. It will go up by 3X by 2028.
Maritime vessels are adopting VSATs for higher bandwidth applications. This will rise 2X by 2028. India started late, and there is potential for disproportionate growth in the coming years.
The satellite industry is enabling inclusive growth of India. There are close to 3 lakh VSATs in India. Satellite-based industry is best suited for providing communications. The India satcoms industry is at the threshold of an accelerated growth. Growth from core satcom segments will come with HTS. Growth from in-flight and maritime connectivity (IFMC) — aero, maritime, will come with HTS as well. New segments will also be served by HTS.
India can become important. India players need to have the platform to become global. There must be an ability to leverage the latest technological developments on real-time basis. Light-touch regulations are a key enabler. Globally competitive spectrum prices are required to spur growth, especially for high bandwidth consuming sectors. There should also be regional coverage, especially for aero and maritime. India needs to adopt more flexible global practices. There are use cases available from the other countries that we can learn from.
Rakesh Sasibhushan, CMD, Antrix, noted that the growth of the Indian satcoms sector has been long and arduous. India is a recognized space power today. Space technology has become much more attractive globally. We have seen the transformation of space–based services from single to multiple satellites. These constellations have the potential to replace terrestrial networks.
Space technology is now accessible to all. This industry is poised to capture the world’s imagination. India has not yet built a robust space economy. Demand for space-based services is increasing. Indian space sector needs to be opened up more.
Telecom has benefited from deregulation. Government had formulated the national telecom policy in 1994, and TRAI came into being in 1997. The rest is history. The space sector in India is in a similar situation today. Many startups have come up in India. We need to create a conducive atmosphere for the private sector in India.