Type to search

India’s Richest Man Beats Musk in Race for Satellite Internet

India gives approval for a satellite internet service operated by a JV led by Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms and a Luxembourg firm, while Musk’s Starlink has got a green light in Sri Lanka

IN-SPACe chairman Pawan Goenka. The space regulator has given approval to Orbit Connect India, an Ambani joint venture, to provide a satellite internet service as the internet space race heats up (Reuters file image).


Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani appears to have won his ‘space race’ with Elon Musk, the world’s richest man.

India’s space regulator has given approval for a satellite internet service operated by a joint venture between Ambani’s Reliance Industries’ Jio Platforms and SES, a firm based in Luxembourg.

The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre, known as IN-SPACe, issued three approvals to Orbit Connect India in April and June, a government executive said.


ALSO SEE: Hong Kong, UAE Firms Hit With Sanctions for Russian Gold Deals


The authorizations, which have not previously been reported, allow Orbit Connect to operate satellites above India, but further approvals are needed by the country’s department of telecoms to begin operations to provide satellite-based high-speed internet access.

Mukesh Ambani, the head of Reliance Industries (Reuters).

The news is a yet another win for Ambani, the country’s richest man who has a net worth of about $114.4 billion.

Ambani has faced high-profile rivals such as Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.com and Musk’s Starlink, which have both been vying for the go-ahead to launch satellite communication and other services in the world’s most populous nation.

Given Modi’s preference for local corporations over foreign entities, the outcome is perhaps no surprise. And Musk was perceived to have snubbed the Indian PM when he cancelled a visit to India in late April and made a visit to Beijing instead.

Reliance, which owns Jio, did not respond to an email seeking further details.

Meanwhile, Inmarsat, another company hoping to provide high-speed satellite-based internet, has also won approval to operate satellites over India, IN-SPACe chairman Pawan Goenka said.

The two other companies that applied were Musk’s Starlink and Amazon.com’s Kuiper, while Eutelsat’s Bharti Enterprises-backed OneWeb was also given approvals late last year.

India’s satellite broadband service market is expected to grow 36% per year over the next five years and reach $1.9 billion by 2030, according to the consultancy Deloitte.

Globally, the race to connect rural areas of the world via space-based internet is accelerating. Amazon plans to invest $10 billion in Kuiper, which was announced in 2019, the year SpaceX began deploying its first operational Starlink satellites.


Starlink gets green light in Sri Lanka

Last week, Sri Lanka gave Starlink preliminary approval to provide internet services there.

Goenka said the more companies involved in the sector in India, the better off consumers would be.

“Comparatively low pricing of communication services in India will compel global players to drive innovation to reduce their pricing,” Goenka, the former managing director of automaker Mahindra & Mahindra, said.

“This is already being done in many industries like automotive, where multinational OEMs had to innovate to meet the expectations of Indian consumers of high performance and low cost.”

IN-SPACe will also soon authorise private companies to operate ground stations, he said, which would enable satellite operators to download data as they pass over India.

Prime Minister Modi’s government, which just won a rare third term, has been pushing the development of India’s space industry.

This year, it opened the gates for foreign direct investment in the sector, saying outside companies could invest in the manufacture of components and systems or sub-systems for satellites up to 100% without approval.

As a result, investors’ interest has “significantly increased”, Goenka said.

“Last year investments into private companies were $2 million-$7 million. This year they are talking $20 million-$30 million,” he said. “The proof of concept has happened.”


  • Reuters with additional input and editing by Jim Pollard



India’s Reliance in Tech Tie-Up Talks Ahead of Chipmaking Move

Musk Meets Modi, Keen to Bring Tesla, Starlink to India Soon

Musk at Odds With Ambani in Plan to Bring Starlink to India

Elon Musk’s Starlink Hit By Second Setback In India

India Tells People To Shun Musk’s Starlink Till It Gets Licence

India the World Leader in Internet Shutdowns in 2023 – Print

India’s Tata Steps Up EV Push With $1.6bn Battery Plant Deal

Reliance’s Jio Tops Pile in India’s $19bn 5G Sell-Off

Amazon’s Battle with Reliance for Indian Retail Supremacy

Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


AF China Bond