Jio Platforms and SES will establish a joint venture (JV) called Jio Space Technology Limited, aiming to take on the likes of OneWeb and Starlink
Today, Jio Platforms has announced that it will be forming a JV with Luxembourgish satellite company SES, planning to use satellite technology to provide affordable, next-generation broadband services throughout India.
The new venture, Jio Space Technology Limited, will be 51% owned by Jio Platforms, with SES owning the remaining 49%.
The JV will make use of SES’s geostationary satellite currently serving India, called SES-12, in combination with O3b mPOWER, SES’s medium-Earth orbit (MEO) constellation. According to Jio, customers of the new JV, using these satellite assets, could enjoy broadband speeds of up to 100 Gbps.
Meanwhile, Jio itself will use its extensive reach to help market these services to customers, as well as signing on as an anchor customer for the new services.
"Reliance Jio, as an anchor customer of the joint venture, has entered into a multi-year capacity purchase agreement, based on certain milestones along with gateways and equipment purchase with total contract value of circa $100 million,” said the company in an official statement.
For Jio, satellite broadband represents a useful complementary service, helping to fill the gaps that next-generation services like 5G and full fibre will struggle to reach in a cost-effective manner.
“While we continue to expand our fibre-based connectivity and FTTH business and invest in 5G, this new joint venture with SES will further accelerate the growth of multigigabit broadband,” Akash Ambani, Director of Jio said in a press statement.
“With additional coverage and capacity offered by satellite communications services, Jio will be able to connect the remotest towns and villages, enterprises, government establishments, and consumers to the new Digital India. We are excited about this new journey combining our massive reach and customer base with SES’s innovative leadership and expertise in the satellite industry.”
Jio’s appreciation for the scope of satellite broadband has been growing for some time. At the end of last year, Jio formed a new satellite unit, Jio Satellite Communications Ltd, ensuring that they were not left behind in the budding satellite communications space race in India. Earlier this month, it was revealed that the unit had applied to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for a global mobile personal communications by satellite services (GMPCS) licence, a prerequisite to offering commercial services directly to consumers.
Currently, the only satellite operator that already holds such a licence is OneWeb, the UK based satellite firm co-owned by Jio rival Bharti Airtel, whose application was approved August last year. OneWeb has said in the past that they hope to launch commercial services in India (and, indeed, globally) by May 2022. Furthermore, they announced last month that they had agreed to form a JV with Hughes Network Systems, combining their burgeoning low-Earth orbit (LEO) constellation with Hughes’ existing satellite assets, aiming to offer more versatile and robust connectivity services both for consumers and enterprise partners.
Meanwhile, for the third major player in this story, SpaceX’s Starlink, regulatory troubles continue to be a major stumbling block. Until recently, the company was taking pre-orders ahead of its prospective launch, but complaints from the company’s rivals soon reached the regulator, who quickly ordered the company to cease taking new orders and begin refunding existing ones, saying that they had no right to take money from customers before receiving an official operating licence.