Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is planning to launch the satellite phone service for all Indian citizens in the next two years. As you’d guess, a satellite phone aka ‘satphone’ connects directly to the orbiting satellite instead of the local cell tower for communication and thus, can connect from any part of the country.

These phones support voice, text messaging (SMS) as well as low-bandwidth Internet access. BSNL has applied to the International Maritime Organisation for license and expects to have the formalities done in the next 24 months. Mr. Anupam Srivastava, the managing director at BSNL informed that once the licenses are obtained, BSNL will make the satellite phone service available for everyone in India. There are several advantages of using satphones over the regular cell phones. While the regular cell phones need to be in the ‘range’ of the nearest cell towers, satphones do no have any such requirement. These phones can work even when there are natural disasters and even in flights and in ships.

“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,” said Anupam Shrivastava, BSNL chairman and managing director. Though International Mobile Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) was set up under aegis of United Nations in 1979 and India was one of the founding members, only
private players including Tata Communications Ltd. (via Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited gateway in Pune) used to provide satellite phone service in India, until now.

Military for long have been demanding this communication service and were hesitant to subscribe from private operators, as there was scope for getting snooped by the enemies during covert operations in the border to stop terrorist infiltration. Now, the wait is finally over. As a part of the first phase, BSNL for the first time, using INMARSAT service, will offer the satellite service to government agencies handling disasters, state police, railways, Border Security Force (BSF) and among others.

BSNL is said to charge in range of range of Rs. 30 and Rs. 35 per minute. Further, when the service becomes available to the public, users need not have to carry large telecommunication equipment in large backpack. It will come in miniature form almost as same as normal mobile phone and it can be used on flight, as well.