Satellite phones in India: A big no-no!

While it may not be widely known, bringing in or using satellite phones in India can have dire legal consequences for travellers. Riskline's new Technology and Communication Risk (TCR) reports, covering everything from what not to post on social media to whether there are restrictions on flying drones, assess the risks posed across 225 countries and offer strategies to ensure a safe trip.

In July 2019, an Italian nurse was detained and charged by Indian authorities for using a satellite phone from a chartered airplane parked at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. While she was subsequently released without harm after several days, this incident highlights how not knowing the do’s and don’ts when bringing electronic and communication devices into a particular country can lead to serious consequences for travellers.

In the case of India, authorities banned satellite phones following the Mumbai terror attacks in 2011 due to security reasons and made their possession and use without authorisation a legal offence. Those found guilty can be heavily fined and/or sentenced to prison. At present, travellers needing to operate such devices require prior approval from the Department of Telecommunications and, even if granted permission, can only use satellite phones running on the Inmarsat network. Indeed, in addition to the Italian nurse, there have been several cases of travellers being detained in the country for the possession of satellite phones over the past few years, with all of them having no prior knowledge of this prohibition.

In our increasingly technology dependent world, it is important for travellers to be well-informed of potential technology and communication risks in the country they are visiting and to be mindful of any ban or restriction on specific technologies or communication devices prior to entering the country, as in the case of India. To aid today’s travellers to be better apprised of this risk landscape, Riskline has launched comprehensive reports on Technology & Communication Risks (TCRs) for 225 countries which encompass things like whether there are restrictions to internet access and social media in a particular country, the possibility of data penetration as well as restrictions in bringing or operating sensitive devices. By being prepared and well-informed, travellers will be able to take necessary steps to mitigate such risks, ensuring that someone going to India for example will not be subjected to the same predicament as the poor Italian nurse.

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