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To facilitate satellite connectivity, Telangana proposes incentives in new space tech policy

To boost the space tech industry, the state plans to offer land at cheap prices, provide co-working spaces, and more.

Telangana has put out its own draft space tech policy, a few months after the Indian government released its space communications policy. These policies claim to encourage the satellite communications industry in India, for applications such as satellite broadband and imagery. “Telangana based entities were responsible for 30% of the parts for the much applauded ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). The state is also leading the way in supporting downstream service providers to build and test solutions such as for agriculture. To further establish Telangana as the go-to location for activities across the space market’s value chain, requisite infrastructure is a necessity and the state endeavours to facilitate the same,” the Telangana government said in its draft policy.

The draft policy is accepting comments here until October 25. This is the first time a state government has come out with its own satellite policy. Satellite connectivity is overseen by the union government’s Department of Communications. States competing with each other to invite private sector participation in a traditionally government-controlled industry may complement the central government’s policy efforts to spark industry interest.

What the policy sets out to do

The policy sets the following priorities, and this is how it plans on achieving them:

  • Access to infrastructure: To enable access to infrastructure, the state government plans on leveraging state-owned supply chains and research capacities to reduce reliance on imports. A pay-per-use model for prototyping technology owned by the state will be devised. Public-Private Partnerships will be entered into for manufacturing small satellites, and leverage MSME companies for this purpose. The government said it would make land available at affordable prices, and that its Open Data portal would be made available for companies to have access to crucial imaging data. Commercial ground stations would be encouraged, and Artificial Intelligence initiatives the government has initiated with the private sector will be leveraged to encourage the space tech industry, the draft policy said.

Source: Government of Telangana

  • Business facilitation and collaboration: A Rs 1,300 crore fund for startups announced in Telangana’s recent ICT budget will consider spacetech startups for disbursal. For “mega-projects,” the state said it would tailor specific policies. The policy said it would facilitate players in the process of obtaining permits and approvals from the union government. It will also support them in international outreach and advise them on legal and intellectual property-related issues. Co-working spaces will be provided for these companies, and an accelerator will be set up. The government would also seek services from these companies in cases where the private sector would benefit the public, the policy said. “Telangana State Remote Sensing Applications Centre (TRAC) shall actively collaborate with the concerned partners and jointly undertake the projects wherever necessary,” it said.
  • Skill development and training: Graduate and postgraduate programs in spacetech would be introduced in Telangana state-run universities, with a focus on applications. Training programs would be conducted based on the industry’s skill demand. Space Exploration Labs would be set up in schools in partnership with NITI Aayog. Faculty development programs would be set up to train school and college educators. Spacetech internships would be made available to college students, and upskilling programs would be established for working professionals.
  • Promoting research & innovation: A spacetech research program would be developed in coordination with the industry and academia. Applied gov-tech projects would get state support for proof-of-concept runs and pilots. A research fellowship program would be created, along with innovation cohorts who would be mentored by domain experts. International academic collaborations would be established.

India and satellite connectivity

The union government released a Spacecom Policy in 2020, in which it has promised to facilitate satellite broadband in rural areas, where commercial deployments are not financially feasible. The policy also envisions relaxed norms for private satellite providers, with the establishment of IN-SPACe, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center.

“Currently, India occupies a meagre 2% or US$ 7 billion of [the satellite] market value and that is despite Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) being one of the leading space agencies globally,” the Telangana government said in its draft policy. “A possible reason is that traditionally ISRO has carried out the critical value addition activities in-house and the private industry’s contribution to the Indian space sector has been mostly limited to subcontracting by ISRO.”

With recent policy moves, private satellite players are warming to the idea of providing internet through satellite in rural areas. SpaceX recently hired Sanjay Bhargava as its India head for Starlink, the low-earth orbiting satellite constellation. “Till we have government approval for at least a pilot we will not be adding any people In India,” Bhargava said in a LinkedIn post.

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