Millennium Post

BSNL rings in satellite phone service to Govt

With the state-owned telecom service provider starting satellite phone service through INMARSAT, it seems seamless connectivity in no-network zones, including hilly terrains, aeroplanes and basement, would become a thing of the past. The satellite phone service, has been started by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) on Wednesday, would be initially offered only to government agencies and later on the services would be throw open for common masses in a phased manner.

The service would be provided by International Maritime Satellite Organisation (INMARSAT) which has 14 satellites. The move will help agencies engaged in handling emergency services, disasters or police personnel deployed in Naxal operations to handle the crisis by establishing telephonic communications even in no-network zones without any hassle.

"At the initial stage, the satellite phones would be give to state police, railways, Border Security Force, agencies engaged in disaster management and other government agencies," said Manoj Sinha, who is Minister of State (Independent) for Telecommunications, while launching the service on Wednesday.

The minister further added that later on the service would be offered to people travelling in flight and on ships. "The BSNL works there also where no one (network) is present. The state-owned telecom service provider has played an important role in spreading communication network across the country.

The satellite phone service of the BSNL is latest and will prove to be very useful in addressing emergency issues," Sinha said, adding that new services would be provided through a miniature handset and people will not need to carry large equipment in bag at their back.

Satellite phones in India are presently provided by Tata Communications, which inherited the licence from Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) (now Tata Communications Ltd). "The services of TCL will be phased out by 30 June," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava said, adding that the satellite mobile service would be for both voice and SMS.

Giving details about calling charges, the INMARSAT India managing director Gautam Sharma said, "All the connections will be transferred to BSNL and the call rates will be determined by BSNL. It should be in the range of Rs 30-35 per minute."

There are 1,532 authorised satellite phone connections that can operate within the country and a majority of them are used by security forces. TCL has also issued 4,143 permits to maritime community for use of such phones at ships.

The INMARSAT was set up under aegis of United Nations in 1979 and India was one of the founding members. The country had set up one gateway required for satellite phone service in Pune under VSNL. There are security concerns on some satellite phones used by paramilitary forces that were supplied by foreign operators.

According to BSNL officials, the satellite phone service project was conceived by the state-owned service provider after defence forces and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had raised their concerns that using satellite phones of foreign agencies may lead to security breach.
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