New Delhi: After the head of billionaire Elon Musk-backed satellite internet venture, Starlink’s India operation, Sanjay Bhargava resigned, the Indian government on Tuesday asked the company to refund all its pre-orders until it receives licences to operate in the country.
Starlink, a division of Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company, has already received over 5,000 pre-orders for its devices in India but is struggling to receive commercial licences without which it cannot offer any services in the country.
“Unfortunately, the timeline for receiving licences to operate is currently unknown, and there are several issues that must be resolved with the licensing framework to allow us to operate Starlink in India,” the company said in the email.
“The Starlink team is looking forward to making Starlink available in India as soon as possible,” it said.
Meanwhile, Bhargava made the announcement in a post on professional networking website LinkedIn. “I have stepped down as Country Director and Chairman of the Board of Starlink India for personal reasons. My last working day was December 31, 2021. I will have no comments for individuals and media so please respect my privacy,” Bhargava said in a LinkedIn post.
“As has always been the case, you can receive a refund at any time, the company said in an email to one of its customers. Reuters has seen a copy of the email.
Notably, Starlink is one of a growing number of companies launching small satellites as part of a low-Earth orbit network to provide low-latency broadband internet services around the world, with a particular focus on remote areas that terrestrial internet infrastructure struggles to reach.
But the Indian government has advised people against subscribing to Starlink without a licence and also warned the company, ordering it to refrain from taking bookings and rendering services.
Starlink is planning to apply for a commercial licence in India by the end of January, its country head had said in a social media post last month, and a presentation showed with an April roll out it targeted 200,000 devices in India by December 2022.
Its competitors include Amazon.com’s Kuiper and OneWeb – a collapsed satellite operator rescued by the British government and India’s Bharti Group.