Billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s satellite internet company Starlink has told its members that the Indian government has asked the company to refund all of its pre-orders until it receives licenses to operate in the country.
“As has always been the case, you can receive a refund at any time,” the company said in an email to one of its customers. Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing a copy of the email it had seen.
Starlink, a division of Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX, has already received more than 5,000 pre-orders for its devices in India, but is struggling to receive commercial licenses without which it cannot offer services in the country.
“Unfortunately, the timeline for receiving licenses to operate is currently unknown, and there are several issues that need to be resolved with the licensing framework to allow us to operate Starlink in India,” the company said in the email.
“The Starlink team hopes that Starlink will be available in India as soon as possible,” he said.
Starlink is part of a growing number of companies launching small satellites as part of a low-Earth orbit network to provide low-latency broadband Internet services around the world, with a particular focus on remote areas where the infrastructure of Terrestrial Internet has difficulties to reach. SpaceX has told investors that Starlink is seeking a share of a $ 1 trillion market comprised of on-board internet, maritime services, demand in China and India, and rural customers.
But the Indian government has advised people not to subscribe to Starlink without a license and ordered the company to refrain from making bookings and providing services.
Starlink plans to apply for a commercial license in India at the end of January, its head of country, Sanjay Bhargava, said in a social media post last month, and a presentation showed that, with a launch in April, it targeted 200,000 devices in India by December 2022..
However, in a LinkedIn post on Tuesday Bhargava said that he had resigned as country director and chairman of the board due to “personal reasons.” According to his profile on the platform, he had assumed the position in October.
In India, Starlink had planned to “continue the business of telecommunications services”, including satellite broadband Internet services, content storage and transmission, multimedia communication, among others.
It was also intended to deal with devices such as satellite phones, network equipment, wired and wireless communication devices, as well as data transmission and reception equipment.
The company also said it will focus on “catalyzing rural development” in India through its broadband services, according to a company presentation shared by Bhargava on LinkedIn over the weekend.
Once allowed to provide services, the company had planned in the first phase to deliver 100 free devices to schools in Delhi and nearby rural districts and then target 12 rural districts across India.
Starlink’s rivals include Amazon.com’s Kuiper and OneWeb, a collapsed satellite operator rescued by the British government and India’s Bharti Group.
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Elon Musk’s Starlink crashes into a wall in India