During the recently held India Mobile Congress 2023, India’s two largest communication service giants Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel announced their satellite broadband internet services. Tapping into the new broadband realm after stirring the 5G technology, both want to extend their market reach and coverage and stamp the lead in the new satellite communication arena. But while their service is similar there are some factors such as speed, latency, coverage, etc. which may differentiate the two. Let’s delve into it.
Jio vs. Airtel satellite internet | LEO vs. MEO constellation
Mukesh Ambani’s satellite internet service called JioSpaceFiber will use the MEO satellite constellation in contrast to Airtel’s LEO. Jio is partnering with a Luxemburg-based satellite service provider SES for the satellites. MEO or medium-Earth satellites orbit 5,000-10,000 km from the Earth.
Airtel, on the other hand, is using LEO constellation. Compared to MEO, LEO or low-Earth orbit satellites are comparatively closer to the Earth and orbit between 800-2,000 km above the Earth’s surface. LEO satellite services require a small terminal which is easily available while MEO satellite needs a larger dish which might be inconvenient to some in terms of ergonomics.
Airtel is not directly providing this service though. OneWeb, a UK-based company that has the Indian telco’s largest share is launching the service in India. Officially, the company is called Eutelsat OneWeb and is the world’s first GEO-LEO satellite operator.
- Jio demoes satellite internet in India with MEO technology
- Bharti Airtel to start commercial satellite broadband internet service next month
Jio’s JioSpaceFiber is a gigafiber internet meaning it can offer up to 1 Gbps in theory at least. But that’s almost a hyperbolic speed. In general, satellite internet service can offer 25-250 Mbps internet bandwidth capacity at most. It has been said that in theory Jio’s satellite internet can give 1.8 Gbps internet service but that might not happen in the real world. Airtel, likewise, hasn’t been explicit with its specs either. However, there may not be a huge speed difference in their services.
Elon Musk-headed SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet provides 25-200 Mbps speed at the maximum and most users get around 100 Mbps download speed while upload speed remains 5-20 Mbps. We assume Jio and Airtel’s satellite broadband could offer the speed around the same.
Coverage and quality
While the speed might be the same for both Jio and Airtel, there’s one area that could be worth mentioning. Both Jio and Airtel use different types of satellites. Jio uses MEO and Airtel has LEO constellations and due to their distance from the Earth, the quality of the internet could be subject to a variation. MEO, in theory, can provide wider coverage with fewer satellites while LEO depends on a larger number of satellites to cover more areas.
More importantly, MEO-inspired internet satellites might be susceptible to higher latency issues compared to better latency performance from the LEO constellation. This is primarily due to the distance data has to transmit from space to the Earth and vice versa and satellites’ distance from the planet factors into the aspect of the quality.
Jio’s JioSpaceFiber has already started service in a few select regions in India- in Gir in Gujarat, Korba in Chattisgarh, Nabrangpur in Odissa, and ONGC in Jorhat, Assam. Airtel’s Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal says that the company’s satellite internet service is also ready to deliver services in November.
Both companies have maintained that their satellite broadband service will be available for customers all over India. However, the target is to tap into the rural areas. Both seek to connect the rural and remote parts of India with wireless broadband internet where cellular and fixed-line fiber internet service is not available.
Package and price
Both Jio and Airtel haven’t explicitly mentioned their packages and prices at the moment while maintaining that their service would be affordable. But let’s make some assumptions. SpaceX’s Starlink satellite starts at Rs $120 a month and $599 for a terminal setup. This is not the most feasible amount to pay in India, even more so, for people in rural areas. So to be competitive, both Indian telcos’ pricing will be much lower. We can also expect the two to collaborate with the government or get subsidies to keep their prices approachable. When we have more details regarding the packages and their costs, we will update them right here.
Jio vs. Airtel vs. SpaceX
It’s not a shock that Jio and Airtel are entering the Satcom services but this could prove a dent to the US firm SpaceX’s plans in the world’s third largest telecommunication market. Elon Musk’s global satellite company has been pleading with the Indian authorities for permission to switch on its service. You may also be interested in: Starlink Maritime to bring its satellite internet to boats
Indian media have reported that SpaceX is likely to receive permission very soon. So, in this competitive battleground, it’s only certain that India will be a melting pot for satellite broadband service in 2024.