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New Extension of Commercial Space
Broadband, ICT and Geomatics: India
Dr. Sanat Kaul
Space applications have thrown tremendous
opportunities for commercialization as tool for
planning and implementation for government.
With ICT convergence of telephony, computers
and extending to smart gadgets, economic
development can be enhanced in a more
scientific and faster manner-something which
was never envisaged a few decades back. This is
the power of space based apps.
Space based applications can be divided into
remote sensing based apps, navigational apps,
communication apps and metrological apps.
India has seen tremendous growth in space research and
activities since 1960.
 Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was
established in 1969 for development of space programme
as a tool for economic and social development.
 Use of satellite apps as a development tool has made a
major dent in the early years. India developed its launch
capability and has sent many satellites from its own launch
pads and also launched commercially for other countries.
 It 2008-09, India sent an unmanned mission to Moon
called Chandrayan I and in 2014, sent a Mars Orbital
Mission (MOM) successfully.
In order to leverage the gains made by ISRO,
a commercial arm called Antrix Corporation
was set up in 1992.
Antrix Corporation was able to access ISRO
staff of 16000 scientists and engineers.
Antrix Corporation has launched through
ISRO many successful satellites for other
countries and has business agreements with
many governments and corporations.
India’s commercial space industry is worth just
over $1 billion when global space industry is
worth $314 billion in 2013. India needs to
encourage private sector in space industry.
 Antrix Corporation has a large vendor base but
there is no major independent private sector
space industry.
 Growth
areas like disaster and flood
management, medicine, education, agriculture,
fisheries, vehicle tracking, women safety, land
issues, minerals, urban development are the
need for public and private development.
Satcom policy opened private sector
initiatives in DTH and Vsat using leasing
capacity from Indian National Satellites
Satcom policy gave preference to Indian
Satellite Systems but did not prohibit use of
Foreign Satellites Systems.
However, lease of foreign satellite capacity
had to be done through Department of Space
leading to bureaucratic delays.
Remote Sensing Data Policy has gone
through two version of 2001 & 2011. Initially,
government was reluctant to allow access to
images lower than 5.8m. However realizing
the defect, bar was lowered for nondiscreminatory access to 1m.
Antrix Corporation is the commercial arm of
There is a need to allow private sector
participation. ISRO is also going in for risk
sharing model with micro, small, medium and
large private industries. It is also setting up a
space industrial park near its spaceport at
Sriharikota and invites private sector
participation to enhance its work.
After ICAO decision of 1994 to shift in future to satellite
based navigation worldwide, India announced its initiative
of GAGAN satellite as the augmentation system over Asia
in a collaborative venture between ISRO and Airports
Authority of India (AAI). Later India announced an Indian
Regional Navigation Satellite System or IRNSS as a seven
satellite based regional navigation system on top of India.
This throws tremendous opportunities for applications.
Already four satellites are in orbit.
 New activities like synchronized traffic lights, GIS maps for
town planning, flood control and disaster relief etc. have
already started.
 ISRO with state governments has opened up number of
centres to develop space based apps and provide training.
Small start-ups have started mushrooming in India. Small
company called Dhruva Space has signed up with a German
company to manufacture satellites.
Indian team has won a $1 million GoogleX Prize in a competition
to produce a rover for the moon by December, 2016.
Geo-Spatial technologies have taken centre space in urban design.
E-commerce has found local companies like Flipkart with a
valuation of $11 billion.
Indian Angels Associations have come up in major cities and are
helping start-ups with funds and mentoring. Better known among
them are Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai Angels and
also Indian Angels Network. Some of them also provide incubator
facilities. However, Indian Angels are still very small in numbers
compared to US
Foreign hedge funds, pension funds are showing interest in India
India has currently 3100 start-ups. By 2020, NASSCOM predicts 11500 start-ups employing
250,000 professionals.
The government has announced Digital India Policy through which it will bring in egovernance and will connect 250,000 village by March 2016 with 750,00 kms optical fibre
According to NASSCOM “Start-Up Report 2014”, India is one of the fastest growing and
third largest eco-system globally.
It is driven by young, diverse inclusive entrepreneurs looking for domain solutions in
healthcare, agriculture, education etc.
However, need for government policy in terms of ease of doing business is the need of the
This will have a multiplier effect on developmental activities.
Many schemes like payment of subsidies, payment through
internet, various charges and government dues etc will make
government delivery more efficient.
Already Common Service Centres (CSC) have come up in
some villages of India having internet offering uninterrupted
access of delivery of government and financial services.
Boosting financial inclusion and ensuring that critical
services including banking, pension and insurance are not
hampered by strike.
CSC comprising of computer, printer and webcam
connected with high speed internet offer more than 114
government services to citizens at their door steps at
affordable cost.
There are presently 140,000 CSCs in India and the plan is to
raise it 264,000 units in the next few years.
CSC system is also a vehicle of women
empowerment especially in tribal areas.
CSC will also offer skilling services like automechanics with help of private companies.
Banking activities are no more confined to
banks. CSC acts as banking correspondents
where customer can update their passbooks
India has no space policy as yet. There is dire
need to set up a space policy which will provide a
policy for private sector participation and a level
playing field. It also needs a policy for future
direction and a legislative backup.
India also needs law to provide preventive
misuse of GNSS jamming and other misuses of
satellite based applications.
With the Atal Innovation Mission, it is hoped that
commercial space applications will get a boost.