After launch, GSAT-11 awaits Rs. 200 crore ground system

Gateways in four cities to deliverhigh-speed broadband via giant satellite

Now that GSAT-11, the third and latest Internet-boosting communication satellite, is up in space, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says it is in the process of readying a Rs. 150-200-crore ground infrastructure across cities to use it.

A Ka-band hub or gateway each is being set up in Delhi, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Ranchi to deliver high-speed broadband services via the giant satellite.

ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said, “The activity of establishing the ground system is on and it may happen over some more months.”

The nearly six-tonne heavyweight satellite was launched in December 5 on a European launcher. Along with its older HTS mates — GSAT-19 and GSAT-29 — it forms an Indian quartet of high-throughput satellites (HTSs). Each of them has a different space location over India and must have its own ground systems.

The ground systems are being put up by external agencies chosen through competitive bidding. They will also be operated and maintained by them for five to seven years. Dr. Sivan admitted that there were “procedural delays” in completing the system with outside support.

The use of the Ka band will be new in the country. In 2017, ISRO’s payload developing unit, the Space Applications Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad, had put out a search or RFP (request for proposal) for companies that could set up GSAT-11’s Ka-band ground systems.

About the HTSs, Dr. Sivan said, “Our target is to deliver close to [a Net data speed at the rate of] 100 Gbps through them. We have planned a fourth one, too — the GSAT-20. It will be a four-tonne-class HTS and will be launched towards the second half of 2019 on our GSLV MarkIII vehicle. With that, our current national requirement should be met.”

Remote areas

The fleet is designed to mainly serve the remote and hilly northeastern States, and Jammu & Kashmir, which are starved of reliable Net services. “Our concentration is on those areas, where it is not possible to establish terrestrial cables as in cities,” Dr. Sivan said.

ISRO says Indian Internet guzzlers number around 450 million and continue to be hungry for faster usage than before. Referring to the consecutive launches of communication satellites GSAT-29 in November and GSAT-11 in December, Dr. Sivan said, “Within a matter of about 20 days, we have already beefed up the requirements of VSATs (very small aperture terminals that allow Internet use) by putting up two satellites suited to them. Yet, the demand is definitely much more and will always be there.” The mission of digital inclusion or coverage of rural and unconnected areas, called BharatNet, will be implemented through the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) and its special purpose company Bharat Broadband Network Limited or BBNL.

In-flight connectivity

One of the functions of the HTSs is also to herald in-flight Internet connectivity over the country, Dr. Sivan said. In-flight connectivity will allow international and domestic air passengers flying over India to make voice calls and surf the Internet on their cell phones.

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