Capitalism in space: Two stories this morning suggest that the competition between the internet satellite constellations Starlink and OneWeb is being partly influenced by local politics, with the influence favoring OneWeb and hindering SpaceX.
First, Pakistan ordered SpaceX to stop taking preorders from its citizens for its Starlink system.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said in a Jan. 19 news release that “Starlink has neither applied for nor obtained any license from PTA to operate and provide internet services” in the country. The telecoms regulator advised the general public to refrain from pre-booking the service in Pakistan through Starlink or associated websites.
This order follows a similar decree in India. Like India, SpaceX had apparently not been granted a license or permit to take preorders. SpaceX has now been blocked entirely from the subcontinent by the governments of both countries.
Second, OneWeb and Hughes announced a partnership agreement to distribute its internet service in India.
In the statement, OneWeb’s CEO Neil Masterson said the company would partner with Hughes to “offer high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband solutions and contribute to the Digital India vision”. OneWeb’s constellation, he said, would cover the length and breadth of India, from Ladakh to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to the Northeast and bring secure solutions to enterprises, governments, telcos, airline companies and maritime customers. “OneWeb will invest in setting up enabling infrastructure such as Gateways and PoPs in India to light up the services,” he added.
According to the announcement, OneWeb intends to start offering its service this year.
OneWeb is half-owned by the Indian-based Bharti group. It seems that this connection with India has greased the bureaucratic wheels in that country for OneWeb, allowing it begin offering its services there. It also appears that this same connection with India is likely one reason both India and Pakistan have put a break on SpaceX’s operations.
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