The Bangalore-based start-up, founded in 2004, is headed by Dr. M.G. Chandrasekhar, former Scientific Secretary at ISRO. He was earlier Managing Director of the satellite radio company WorldSpace, which shut shop in India last year. In 2008, Deutsche Telekom picked up 17 per cent stake in Devas for about $75 million. Columbia Capital and Telcom Ventures are the other international investors. The board of directors includes Kiran Karnik, a former President of Nasscom; Larry Babio, a former vice-chairman of Verizon, and Gary Parsons, a former Chairman of XM Sirius Satellite.
What’s the plan?
It wants to offer satellite broadband services across India on various platforms, including mobile. It claims to have developed its own portable device, which acts like a WiFi router. The company is already in talks with the Indian Railways for a host of services such as real-time location spotting and collision avoidance. It claims to have done successful trials in 2009 and 2010.
How is the rollout planned?
On January 28, 2005, Devas Multimedia reached an agreement with Antrix, ISRO’s commercial arm, to lease S-band transponder capacity on the yet-to-be launched GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A. Under this, along with the transponders, Devas Multimedia gets access to about 70 Mhz of spectrum in the 2500 Mhz band. Devas Multimedia is planning to launch broadband services through a combination of satellite and terrestrial networks.
What was the agreement?
Devas Multimedia will pay $40 million as pre-launch capacity reservation and $250 million for satellite capacity lease payments. ISRO/Antrix has a representative on the Devas Multimedia board of directors. The two will share revenue once services start. The exact revenue share is not known. The company plans to invest $500 million to $750 million once the service is launched.
When will the service be launched?
Originally the two new satellites were supposed to be launched from India in 2010, but this got delayed. Now ISRO is looking to launch GSAT-6 through Arianespace, a European consortium, because the agreement with Devas Multimedia has a penalty clause for delays. Devas Multimedia claims it is ready to go as soon as the satellite is up in the sky.
Does Devas have the required licences?
It has an Internet Service Provider licence. It has clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for 74 per cent foreign direct investment. It has got trial spectrum from the DoT and plans to apply for a full licence. But it may have to acquire additional licences such as that for Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite (GMPCS) in order to offer satellite-based services. It is also not clear if Devas can use terrestrial spectrum without making additional payments.