Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in Asia, has voiced strong opposition to Elon Musk’s plans to bring his Starlink satellite broadband to India.
Mukesh Ambani owns Reliance Jio, the largest telecom provider in India.
Musk expressed his desire to launch Starlink in India during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday in the United States. Musk noted that Starlink “can be incredibly helpful” in outlying communities lacking high-speed services or internet access.
What he omitted to mention is that Starlink and Ambani’s Reliance disagree over how the government distributes satellite broadband spectrum, setting up a conflict between two of the richest men in the world over satellite services in the country with the largest population.
According to a global trend, Starlink is urging India to simply award licences rather than auction the spectrum, arguing that it is a natural resource that should be shared by businesses. Geographical limitations imposed by an auction may increase expenses, it stated in corporate communications that the Indian government made public last month.
Reliance disagrees and has demanded an auction in a public filing to the government, arguing that there must be an auction to create a level playing field because foreign satellite service providers might supply voice and data services and compete with established telecom firms.
For Musk, the stakes are quite high. His drive comes as Musk is negotiating with India to establish a Tesla factory and after a 2021 attempt to launch Starlink in India was thwarted by local regulators for accepting reservations without a licence.
Ambani will benefit from holding a foreign competition at bay in satellite broadband because his Reliance Jio already leads the industry with 439 million telecom subscribers, 8 million wired internet connections, and a 25% market share.
Project Kuiper, Amazon’s satellite internet venture, and OneWeb, which is supported by the British government, all share Starlink’s perspective on auctions.