It's 2017, but unfortunately, network issues still persist in the Indian subcontinent. In order to bail its citizens out of the constant network troubles that they run into, state-run BSNL is considering on extending satellite phone services to all Indian citizens. The phones, which can be expected to be made available in another two years, will be capable of working in every nook and corner of the South Asian country and will be safe from any network breakdown whatsoever.

According to a statement given by BSNL chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava to PTI, the company has already the first official step and applied to International Maritime Organisation. He said, "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."

While traditional mobile networks cover around 25-30km around towers and can transmit signals to phones placed equal to or below the height of the tower, Satellite phones, on the other hand, are capable of working in any part of the country as they on function directly from satellites located about 35,700km above the earth. They can even function from inside flights and ships.

The state-run telecom company is making use of INMARSAT to provide the satellite phone service. The service will be initially rolled out to government agencies, but will soon be extended to the citizens of the country in an organised manner.

Government agencies handling Border Security Force, state police, disaster, railways, and other government agencies will be provided with the satellite phone service in the first phase.

The phone service will be able to cover areas where currently no networks are present and INMARSAT's 14 satellites will help BSNL in its mission.

According to Shrivastava, currently the number of satellite phone connections in India are very less but once BSNL starts with its satellite phone for every citizen initiative with full force, the whole dynamics of the market can be expected to go through a massive change. He also added, that the huge volume of phone connections might even help in bringing down the overall cost of the service. BSNL has decided to charge only Re 1 over the cost that the satellite firm will billing to them.

In the first phase, call rates on satellite phones are expected to be in the range of Rs. 30-35 since there are only about 4,600 connections present in the country.

He further added, "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."
Tata Communications Ltd. is currently providing satellite phones in India. The company inherited the licence from Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited.

According to the plan chalked out, TCL services will be phased out by June 30 this year with all its connections getting transferred to BSNL service

At present, India has 1,532 authorised satellite phone connections functioning. In addition to this, Tata Communications Ltd. has also issued 4,143 permits to maritime community for usage of these phones on ships at sea.

Though satellite phones might offer smooth connection promise, but they all carry security concerns. According to India's telecom regulator TRAI, communication done through satellite phones can be monitored by foreign agencies as their gateways are located outside India. This is the reason that Indian Defence forces have declined to use satellite phones from the foreign operators. In fact, several security agencies have time and again been voicing their demand for establishment of a new gateway in the Indian subcontinent which is capable of supporting new generation handsets for land mobile connections.

The demand of these security agencies seems to have finally been met, with a new satellite phone gateway being set-up in India with legal interception and monitoring system (LIMS).

According to Shrivastava, there are no more security issued related to satellite phones anymore in India as BSNL has set-up a gateway with INMARSAT to address security concerns among government agencies. The company will be rolling out satellite services once their registration process is completed and all the necessary approvals are in line.

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