Starlink has been rapidly expanding its coverage area and is now available in over 50 countries while having added 850,000 subscribers in 2022 alone.
Unfortunately, Starlink is currently not available in India. In this article, I will detail why Starlink isn’t live in India yet, the roadblocks it faced so far, when it’s likely launching, and at what cost.
Detailing Starlink’s (Troubled) History in India
To say that Starlink faced some roadblocks in India is probably quite the understatement. To understand why, let’s rewind the tape back to March 2021.
After Starlink had just launched in the United States five months prior, its executives quickly began to roll out the service to other lucrative markets.
India was quickly identified as being one of those, largely due to the country’s population size, lack of satellite-based internet options, and willingness to adopt new technologies.
Additionally, improving internet connectivity can be particularly beneficial to developing nations like India. A World Bank report previously discovered that a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration can lead to GDP increases of up to 1.38 percent.
When Starlink opened itself up for pre-orders, it targeted customers across most major cities (e.g., Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru) as well as in remote areas (which Starlink primarily targets anyways).
“Availability is limited. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis,” Starlink said on its website at the time.
Starlink disclosed that it targeted a launch sometime in 2022, pending regulatory approval by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the country’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Unfortunately, it did not take much time for issues to arise. A month after pre-orders went live, in April 2021, an industry association called Broadband India Forum, which represents the likes of Amazon, Google, Hughes Communications, or Microsoft, among many others, sent a letter to various government bodies, urging them halt sales.
Hughes and Amazon, in particular, had a vested interest in stopping Starlink. Dubbed Project Kuiper, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant was (and still is) working on a similar satellite constellation that aims to provide global internet coverage.
Starlink, to fend off the rising competition and advance its regulatory approval, hired seasoned executive Sanjay Bhargava in October. Musk personally knew Bhargava from his days at PayPal where the latter was a founding member.
His first act of business was to officially register Starlink as an stand-alone business in India. Starlink Satellite Communications Private Limited, as it would be called, would allow the firm to apply for the various required licenses.
“Pleased to share that SpaceX now has a 100% owned subsidiary in India,” Bhargava wrote on LinkedIn. His post was accompanied with a set of slides, which detailed Starlink’s plans in the country.
For example, in its initial phase, Starlink aimed to give 100 devices for free to schools in Delhi and surrounding rural locations.
More importantly, the document stated that Starlink planned to file its commercial applications by January 31st, 2022. Rollout would begin in April while Starlink projected to sell over 200,000 terminals until December.
In upcoming interviews, Bhargava also stated Starlink and SpaceX aimed to work together with Indian telecom providers, such as Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, or BharatNet, to help them deploy their own satellite constellations.
Regrettably, Bhargava’s optimism wouldn’t last for much longer, though. On November 27th, 2021, just around three weeks after Starlink incorporated its standalone business, the Indian government advised people against subscribing to Starlink.
The corresponding statement urged Starlink to comply with local regulations and abstain from “booking/rendering the satellite internet services in India with immediate effect.” Within a matter of days, Starlink stopped processing any new pre-order.
“For a lot of users, Starlink makes sense. Our goal is to provide context for how Starlink could be a great fit for connectivity in numerous situations. A 100% Broadband India will require collaboration across stakeholders, service providers, and technologies, and we encourage everyone to think about their use cases and develop connectivity plans for districts as well as private use,” Bhargava wrote in response to the government order.
That would be the last pro-Starlink post from Bhargava, though. In early January 2022, he stepped down from his role after just four months on the job.
His departure was a direct reaction to another government request, which forced Starlink to refund all of the 7,000+ pre-orders it had amassed. Furthermore, the Indian government advised people to not subscribe to Starlink until it received the necessary license.
Over the coming months, nothing of material importance was disclosed. Meanwhile, new satellite-based Starlink competitors started to emerge in the country, most notably Jio and Hughes Communications.
Even SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk did not have a definitive answer on when Starlink would finally get the ok to launch in India.
Finally, in October 2022, some glimmer of hope returned. A report by the Economic Times stated that Starlink would soon apply for a Global Mobile Personal Communications By Satellite (GMPCS) license.
Interestingly, OneWeb, one of Starlink’s largest competitors and backed by India’s Bharti Group, had previously filed for the same license.
With that being said, let’s explore when Starlink may come to India.
When Is Starlink Coming to India?
So far, the report by the Economic Times is the last we heard about Starlink’s business endeavors in India.
When checking on Starlink’s availability map, it still states that it’s launch is “pending regulatory approval.”
However, once Starlink receives the go from the government, it should not take too long for the service to launch.
Previously, Starlink projected to receive approval by January 2022, with a launch occurring a mere three months later in April.
Hope may be on the horizon, though. Back in June 2023, Musk met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss bringing both Tesla production and Starlink internet to the country.
How Much Will Starlink Cost in India?
Right now, there’s no verifiable information on how much Starlink may cost once it launches. However, there are at least some data points that may help us in assessing future pricing.
First, when Starlink took pre-orders in India, it priced its service at $99 per month (Rs 7,346 at the time) while charging a one-time hardware fee of $499 (~ Rs 37,000).
Pricing was similar to what consumers in the United States paid at the time. Starlink has since altered its pricing in the States to $110 per month, citing inflation and higher interest rates as the reasons.
On the other hand, this isn’t necessarily what consumers in other countries are charged. In large parts of Europe, for example, Starlink costs between $65 to $90 per month (feel free to check out our global price list to see what consumers across the world pay).
Another price-mitigating factor may be the launch of additional satellite-based internet service providers, namely Jio and Hughes Communications, in the country.
While neither have disclosed costs for consumers, the added competition should certainly put further pressure on Starlink to adapt its own pricing structure.
Therefore, I would assume that Starlink will enter the Indian market at a far lower rate than the initially proposed ~ Rs 7,346. By how much remains to be seen.