Investor community calls for regulatory certainty and predictable spectrum strategy
Following a successful roundtable discussion on "Space Policy and Spectrum Issues: Investors' Perspective" held on Monday, 24th July 2023, the investor community expressed enthusiastic support for enhancing the investor climate in India's space industry, recognizing its significance in the current landscape. The virtual event brought together prominent industry representatives and key members from various organizations, including NITI Aayog, representative from the Office of PSA-PMO Invest India, SIA-India (SatCom Industry Association of India), and GSOA (Global Satellite Operators Association). The roundtable witnessed the active participation of key members of the investor community. The primary purpose was to collaboratively shape future policies and regulations that would facilitate investment and growth in India's space sector.
During the roundtable, the investor community echoed the importance of spectrum availability as per international best practices and regulatory long-term certainty must be addressed to ensure the successful implementation of India space policy. To foster the growth of the space industry and attract significant investment, timely actions are required to provide a clear and transparent framework for investors. Early investment in startups, combined with well-planned exit strategies, will pave the way for unique and innovative solutions that meet market demands. The creation of a diverse ecosystem of investors, along with tailored policies for startups, is crucial to cultivate a supportive environment for their development. Clearly defining potential exit options, whether through local corporates, stock exchanges, or attracting public and private buyers, is paramount to instilling confidence among investors. Recognizing the distinctive needs of startups within the Ease of Doing Business framework and forging robust partnerships with the government will enable the space sector to thrive, leading to a prosperous future and significant contributions to space exploration and technological advancement.
Dr Subba Rao Pavuluri, President SIA-India and CMD Ananth Technologies stated “The recently released Space Policy 2023 is undoubtedly a groundbreaking development in India's space sector, with its focus on promoting growth and private sector participation. However, as we delve into its implementation, it becomes evident that there are several gaps that need to be addressed. The absence of a Space Activities Bill adds to the complexity, making certain aspects of the policy ambiguous and requiring further clarification."
The discussions also highlighted the recent consultation and open house discussions by TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) on the Spectrum Assignment Strategy for Space-based Communication Services. The roundtable critically examined the right strategy for spectrum assignment approaches and drew insights from international best practices based on a well-designed administrative mechanism, enabling industry to continue to innovate, invest and deliver on the government and industry’s common objective of achieving meaningful connectivity for all. In particular, it was noted that mechanisms such as auctions would limit the number of operators accessing a sharable resource, thus creating artificial scarcity and potentially leading to market failure. Speaking along similar lines Ms Isabelle Mauro, Director General, GSOA stated "Satellite communications play a pivotal role in building a connected society and bridging the digital divide. The rapid evolution of the satellite industry, with its focus on resilience and reach, has paved the way for affordable and reliable connectivity to previously unserved or underserved areas. Administrative allocation of satellite spectrum, rather than auctions, is the key to ensuring equitable distribution and fostering innovation for meaningful connectivity” she added “we need a balanced and well-established approach to maximize the socio-economic benefits for all citizens and businesses across the country".
The Satellite Service providers and Operators emphasized the established practice of sharing and coordinating satellite spectrum at the international level, ensuring seamless and interference-free operations among global satellite operators. However, they expressed genuine concern about the unproven nature of auctioning satellite spectrum and the potential risks associated with this approach. The lack of a proven history or successful track record for global auctions of satellite services raises uncertainties and poses risks for companies investing in satellite communications.
The introduction of untested spectrum allocation methods, such as auctions, may lead to uncertainties that could deter investments, hinder network deployments, and ultimately impede progress in providing reliable and accessible satellite services. This uncertainty can significantly impact the growth and development of the satellite industry, potentially limiting its ability to meet the increasing demand for connectivity services in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. The stakeholders raised concerns about treading an unorthodox route, which could further exacerbate the risks faced by investors and operators.
To overcome these challenges, effective coordination and regulatory frameworks are considered essential. Ensuring a stable and transparent regulatory environment will enable satellite operators to efficiently utilize spectrum resources while meeting the ever-growing demand for connectivity services.
Furthermore, the discussions underscored the importance of considering the broader socio-economic impact of space activities, with a focus on the returns to the nation beyond financial gains to the exchequer. This holistic approach aims to maximize the benefits of space activities for the overall welfare and development of the country.
SIA-India hopes to support the shaping of future policies and regulations that facilitate investment and growth in India's space sector with the outcomes of this roundtable discussion. The investor community remains committed to supporting initiatives that will propel India's space industry towards greater achievements and advancements.