Source: InSPA/EY 2022
Today, India stands at the cusp of a technology-led transformation, and the space economy will play a crucial role in making this happen. India has a well-developed space program, boosted by the realization of indigenous technology, facilities, systems, and rollout of services in a systematic manner. The space industry has played a key role across several application areas, including weather forecasting, geological and oceanographic studies, disaster management, and agriculture to name a few. Satellite broadcasting services have been the mainstay of the Media and entertainment industry in India, benefitting a large part of the population.
So far, the space industry in India has been largely under the purview of the government, with limited private participation. Given the advancement in technologies, proliferation of data, and the onset of the platform economy, there is a need for greater private participation and driving further commercialization. Developing a self-sustaining industry model will enhance the attractiveness of the industry greatly.
Satellites have the potential to bridge the digital divide in India. Apart from providing basic connectivity and broadband services, satellite communication is likely to impact various industries in India. For instance, satellites can provide connectivity for teachers and students to access resources in rural and remote areas. The ubiquity of satellite communication, quick access, and cost-effective features make it an attractive proposition in the education sector.
Offering digital health solutions in remote areas through satellites is likely to open up nascent opportunities. On the other hand, equipping fishing vessels with satellite-based communication systems will go a long way in disseminating effective information on disaster warning, Potential Fishing Zones (PFZ) and other ocean-related advisories. Further, satellites will play a critical role in the proliferation of the loT sector and help to realize the full potential of interconnected devices. Hence, the government should promote the significance of satellite-based communication services in the nation’s broadband agenda and other-satellite based applications. Holistically, educating the public and other stakeholders about space-based technology and capabilities will invoke a lot of interest.
It is important to adopt globally harmonized policies for space domain systems and satellite services. government of India should implement a light-touch regulatory framework that promotes innovation, investment, and growth, and which protects satellite systems from harmful interference.
A conducive regulatory and policy framework will go a long way in building a robust ecosystem. At the same time, promoting ease of doing business is critical for investments to flow in the space domain. The overall attractiveness of the sector has to improve for greater private participation.
Policies should advocate affordability, and efficient and optimal utilization of satellite spectrum, network, and services. For this to happen, a collaborative approach and inclusive engagement between the government of India, regulatory bodies, national and international organization, and other stakeholders is required.
Role of Private Equity (PE)/ Venture Capital (VC) firms may serve crucial for investments in new infrastructure and R&D to make India a space manufacturing hub. In addition, startup incubators focused on the space domain can help to catapult the sector on the innovation domain. Currently, there are over 100 spacetech startups in India. The year 2021 was a watershed year for spacetech startups, with investments reaching US$68m, a y-o-y increase of 196%.
Ultimately, a platform that promotes the development of the entire space ecosystem – design and manufacturing of satellites and payloads, launch vehicles and launch services, ground and space segments, space communications, satellite communication, space-based services, spectrum management and operations, space applications, navigation applications and navigation equipment design and supply – is the need of the hour.