Indian Government Tells Starlink to Stop Selling Satellite Internet Until It Gets a Licence to Do So

Indian Government Tells Starlink to Stop Selling Satellite Internet Until It Gets a Licence to Do So
View of an antenna of the Starlink satellite internet at the Jhon F. Kennedy school in Sotomo, part of the Los Lagos Region in southern Chile, on August 8, 2021. (Photo: Pablo Cozzaglio / AFP, Getty Images)

The Indian government didn’t mince words in a recent message to Elon Musk’s Starlink: Get a licence before offering satellite internet services in the country.

In a press release on Friday, India’s Department of Telecommunications, which is part of the Ministry of Communications, asked Starlink to stop selling satellite internet services in the country “with immediate effect” until it gets the required licenses to do. The department similarly advised the public not to buy Starlink internet — which can be pre-ordered for a $US99 (A$139) deposit from the SpaceX subsidiary’s website — because it is not a licensee.

The entire Starlink starter kit, which includes a stand, power supply, and a wifi router, costs $US499 (A$692). In addition, users must also pay a $US99 (A$137) monthly fee.

“For rendering satellite based services in India, requisite licence(s) from Department of Telecommunications, Government of India are required. It is hereby informed to the public at large that the said company has not obtained any licence/authorization for rendering satellite based internet services that are being booked on their website,” the government said in its press release. “Accordingly, the Government has asked the company to comply with the Indian regulatory framework for rendering the satellite based communication services and refrain from booking/rendering the satellite internet services in India with immediate effect.”

Gizmodo reached out to SpaceX on Saturday for comment on the Indian government’s response to Starlink but did not receive a response by the time of publication. We’ll make sure to update this blog if we hear back.

Starlink told Reuters that it had “no comment for now.”

A company presentation on catalyzing rural development shared by Starlink India director Sanjay Bhargava earlier this month and reported by Insider did point out that it was still “in the process of getting approvals to ship Starlinks to India.” The presentation noted that the company’s stretch was to have 200,000 Starlinks in the country by December 2022, of which 160,000 would be in rural districts.

Although it appears Starlink didn’t try to hide this information, it probably didn’t expect the government to be so stern, which is presumably why it continued happily taking pre-orders. However, you can understand the government’s response in this case. It’s not telling Starlink not to sell, it’s just telling it to follow the rules before it does. Plus, we’re living in COVID times. Government approvals aren’t guaranteed to speed through.