Satellite communications companies will now be able to operate in India at a lower cost. The TelecomCommission has decided to reduce the licence fee for these companies based onrecommendations from the Telecom regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and acommittee of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Now, satellite communications companies, referred as VSAT operators, will have to pay Rs 10,000 as annual licence fee for each satellite or a hub, instead of Rs 16,000.
And, there would not be any minimum licence fee, which was Rs 16 lakh earlier. While Trai had recommended the licence fee at Rs 8,000 per annum per satellite, the empowered committee of the DoT had decided to keep it at Rs 10,000.
The Telecom Commission hastaken the decision realising the increasing need for satellite communicationsfor the security forces and disaster management. According to Trai data, thereare 11 VSAT service providers.
Besides cellular operators like Bharti Airteland state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), there are independent operators like Hughes Communications, Infotel Satcom, Infinium, HCL Comnet whoprovide satellite communications services.
Last year, Nasdaq-listedIridium Communications had said it was planning to re-enter India afterabout 13 years. The company was is intalks with state-run BSNL and MTNL, besides private Indian companies to floatan Indian firm - Iridium India,in which Iridium will have a 49% stake.
The country's policy on foreigndirect investment (FDI) in satellite mobile services allows foreign telcos tohold up to 49% through the automatic route and up to 74% afterrequisite approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).
Also, under the policy, a satellite mobile operator has to mandatorily set up a gateway within thecountry to ensure all calls could be intercepted - a concern aggravated by thefact that terrorists operate with these phones to evade location.