Global satellite service provider Inmarsat is considering a satellite broadband service agreement with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd of India. A BSNL source revealed that the two parties is about to reach a satellite communications deal. Both parties are still considering what business model to adopt and addressing some possible technical issues.
According to BSNL source, the company is working with an in-house team to examine the technical and commercial aspects of the proposed satellite broadband service agreement. The deal, if approved, would enable BSNL to provide satellite Internet services in marginalized markets via Inmarsat. BSNL also expects to meet the wireless Internet and real-time communications needs of the national armed forces.
Inmarsat used to be the partner of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. But the local satellite communications service was discontinued following the sale of the government’s VSNL shares to Tatas. Since then, Inmarsat is earnestly looking for a new partner in India.
Previous talks involved BPL Mobile (a mobile service provider Mumbai) and Jain Studios.
Inmarsat is also seeking to have its own Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite local licence. One of the big challenges facing the British carrier is the requirements for operating a local earth stations. The Indian government is requiring foreign satellite service providers to set their own earth station in the country to get commercial license.
This would cost the company around $20-$30 million, which seems unlikely to be funded entirely by Inmarsat nor its Indian partner. The Department of Telecom is also requiring BSNL to own a local gateway if it wants to close a deal with Inmarsat.
BSNL argues that such security measure should be funded by the government, not by private satellite communications companies.
A BSNL officer said that the company is seeking to preserve its business case while meeting the government’s security requirement. Using a virtual gateway is being considered to allow security agencies to monitor data flowing through the network. Virtual gateways are less expensive than an earth station.
A deal with Inmarsat will allow BSNL to provide fast satellite communications services on wireless devices. A similar attempt was made by ISRO through partnership with Devas Multimedia of Bangalore. However, the government scrapped the deal last year.
BSNL officials said that its proposed service with Inmarsat cannot be compared with the Isro-Devas deal because BSNL had all the licences required to offer telecom services.
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