Satellite phones can work in any part of the country, even inside flights and ships.

BSNL plans to extend satellite phone services to all Indians in the next two yearsImage for representational purpose only
Atom Telecom Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 12:08

In the next two months, every BSNL user might become immune to breakdown of mobile services during natural calamities. According to a PTI report, state-run BSNL is planning to extend satellite phone services that can work in any corner of the country, to all citizens in the next two years.

“We have applied to International Maritime Organisation. It will take some time to complete the process. In 18-24 months, we will be in a position to open satellite phones service for citizens in a phased manner,” BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava told PTI.

Satellite phones can work in any part of the country, even inside flights and ships. This is because they depend on signals directly from satellites located about 35,700 kms above the earth.

Traditionally, mobile networks cover around 25-30 kms around towers and can transmit signals to phones placed at a level equal to or below the height of the tower. BSNL has started satellite phone service using INMARSAT service. It will initially be offered to government agencies and will laterbe extended to citizens in a phased manner.

All areas that have no network will be covered by the service provided by INMARSAT which has 14 satellites. In the first phase, agencies handling disasters, state police, railways, Border Security Force and other government agencies will be given these phones.

“The number of satellite phone connections in India is very little but once we open it for citizens, the whole dynamics of the market will change. The volumes will bring down the cost of service. We are charging only Re 1 over the cost that satellite firm will bill to us,” Shrivastava said.

The calls on satellite phones will cost around Rs 30-35 in the first phase when only about 4,600 connections are there in the country.

“Satellite phones also cost Rs 40,000 and more. All the satellite phones are imported at present. Once we open it for citizens, the volumes will drive down the cost of calls as well as handset. Even, huge volume can attract satellite phone manufacturers to set-up their unit in India. We expect it to create a new ecosystem of satellite services in the country,” Shrivastava said.

Currently, Tata Communications provides Satellite phones in India after it inherited the licence from Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (now Tata Communications Ltd).

The services of TCL will be phased out by June 30, 2017 and all the connections will be transferred to BSNL.

TCL has also issued 4,143 permits to maritime community for use of such phones at ships.

However, there have been security concerns on use of satellite phones in India. Telecom regulator Authority of India (TRAI) has said there is a possibility that communication through such phones can be monitored by foreign agencies as their gateways are located outside India.

Due to security and espionage concerns, defence forces did not opt for the satellite phones from foreign operators.

PTI reports that other security agencies had been demanding for a long time for establishment of a new gateway in the country which can support new generation handsets for land mobile connections. Shrivastava said that now satellite phone gateway has been set-up in India with legal interception and monitoring system (LIMS).

“BSNL has set-up gateway with INMARSAT to address security concerns among government agencies. Now, there are no more issued related to security. We will start providing satellite services once our registration process is complete and necessary approvals are in place,” Shrivastava added.

Image: Steve Jurvetson

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