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Space-bound Jio & Airtel will enrich Geoeconomic ‘Antyodaya’ through Triangular Cooperation!

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 7th India Mobile Congress

One of the biggest news coming out of the 7th India Mobile Congress has been the launch of Jio SpaceFiber by the leading Indian telecom service provider, Reliance Jio. Of course, those in this tight-knit space industry knew very well about the partnership between Jio and the Luxembourg-based SES Networks that was announced in 2022. But its demonstrative announcement at the India Mobile Congress, held at the recently-inaugurated Bharat Mandapam, is testimony to the potential convergence of new-age with the ancient Indian civilization thought of Antyodaya.

In the SES-Jio partnership, SES will provide its O3b and the currently under-deployment O3b mPOWER satellite constellations operating in the Middle Earth Orbit (MEO). O3b, which stands for ‘Other Three Billion’, has aimed to provide internet services to the three billion or so people living and working in rural and remote regions of the planet. O3b satellites claim to be cheaper and more reliable than the Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) constellations, as the prior operate only through 31 satellites, 20 from the O3b series built by the French Thales Alenia Space and 11 of the O3b mPOWER series built by US’s Boeing. The older O3b series has offered services to various telecom service providers, but none have come close to Jio, the world’s third-largest mobile network operator.

Since its deployment in 2022, India’s 5G connectivity has grown to 97% across urban conurbations. What remains a challenge, not only for India but for the world, is taking 5G to rural and remote regions of the planet. Utility companies, mining companies, oil and gas exploration companies, commercial shipping and tourism companies, and several thousand villages located in remote mountains, deserts, forests and on islands stand to benefit from the last-mile connectivity offered by space-based telecommunications and internet services.

In a report, recently published by the telecom sector insights company TransUnion CIBIL, it is said that 56% of new internet users in India will be only from rural regions and this tremendous digital penetration will happen only through the attainment of last-mile connectivity. A strong sense of market needs, and attractive and cost-effective packaging of services will be vital in bringing space-based internet services to India. This is something that both Jio and Airtel, which is currently a substantial stakeholder in Eutelsat OneWeb constellation, have sensed and are actively working on.