BSNL, India’s leading telecom provider plans to extend satellite phone services in another two years. The plan is to roll out services in a phased manner to Indian citizens, revealed BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava. The advantage of satellite phones is that they can work anywhere, inside flights, remote areas and over the sea as they are powered by satellite communications. Unlike traditional mobile networks, that draw signal strength from towers which cover 25-30 kms, satellite services provide uninterrupted coverage.
BSNL plans to provide this service in area where there is no network at the present through INMARSAT that has 14 satellites. Satellite phones are usually used by defence forces. At present there are 1,532 authorised satellite phone connections that can operate within the country.
A major caveat with satellite phones is that it ha sparked security concerns and reports suggest they can be used by foreign sources for espionage. According to TRAI, the telecom regulatory authority, the gateways are located outside India. Shrivastava revealed satellite phone gateway had been set-up in India with legal interception and monitoring system. Quelling the security concerns, BSNL authority revealed it had set-up gateway with INMARSAT to address security concerns among government agencies. “We have no more issued related to security. And we will start providing satellite services once our registration process is complete and necessary approvals are in place,” he said.
BSNLs satellite phone service via INMARSAT will be initially rolled out to government agencies and will be introduced to the larger public later in a phased manner. In the first phase, Central and state agencies such as state police, railways, Border Security Force and other government agencies will receive satellite phones first.
Currently, satellite phones come at a steep price of INR 40,000 but huge volumes are expected to bring the cost down.