Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet servicehas faced its first setback in India even before the commercial launch – the company’s country director and chairman of the board, Sanjay Bhargava, has stepped down citing personal reasons.
“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,” Bhargava wrote on his LinkedIn page, appealing for his privacy.
It’s not clear what triggered Bhargava’s resignation, but this comes after the Indian government ordered the company to refund all pre-orders until it receives a licence to operate in the country.
Bhargava joined Starlink in October. He was one of the “founding employees” of PayPal, a company co-founded by Elon Musk.
Government had advised against subscribing to Starlink services
Earlier in December, the Indian government issued an advisory stating that Starlink had not obtained any license or authorisation required to operate its satellite internet services in the country.
“The Government has asked the company to comply with the Indian regulatory framework for rendering the satellite-based communication services and refrain from booking/rendering the satellite internet services in India with immediate effect,” noted the advisory issued by the government.
“Given the fact that Starlink is not a licensee, the public is advised not to subscribe to Starlink services being advertised,” the government added further, cautioning the subscribers of Starlink and the public at large.
Bhargava’s goal was to have 2 lakh connections in India by 2022 end
Exactly one year from now, by the end of 2022, Bhargava’s goal was to have 2 lakh connections in India, spread across 1.6 lakh rural districts of the country.
But here’s the kicker – Starlink’s user terminal, which is required to connect to the company’s satellites, costs $499 each (approx. ₹37,000).
This is on top of the $99 a month (approx. ₹7,400) subscription charge, which is extremely expensive no matter what plan you consider, especially for a country like India.
Starlink’s recorded top speed is a little over 200Mbps, according to a list of test results recorded so far. For context, 200Mbps plans from popular broadband providers like JioFiber, ACT Fibernet and Airtel start at ₹999 per month.
These providers also offer 1Gbps plans starting at ₹3,999 per month, which is still considerably lower than Starlink’s subscription plan.
Admittedly, satellite internet is fundamentally different from wired broadband, but the massive price difference, combined with the widespread availability of 4G services across the country, might have made Starlink a non-starter for most Indian users.
Bhargava’s goal of 2 lakh connections in India by the end of 2022 might have been too far-fetched to begin with, especially without any tweaks in the prices of the $499 kit or the $99 a month plan.