Travel Planning – Satellite Phone Restrictions


Man with satellite phone

As we often say, a little homework goes a long way. It has been reported that on June 2, 2019, a French national was apprehended by the Central Industrial Security Force, CISF, in Delhi, India, at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) for carrying a satellite phone. He was then handed over to the Delhi Police for further processing.

The man appears to have been unaware that Iridium and Globalstar satellite phones are prohibited under the Wireless and Telegraph Act. However, there are some ways to utilize this type of technology if traveling to India. If there is a need, it appears INMARSAT satellite phones, with some exclusions, are permitted if certain guidelines are followed.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to a foreign traveler in India. In 2017, an Australian was fined 8,000 rupees and released after being detained for using a satellite phone, according to ABC.net. It is likely the apparent use of the phone was detected because it came from near a military base and India’s sensitive Himalayan border with China.

There are other countries prohibited, restricting, or heavily regulating satellite phone use. In addition to India be sure to be familiar with the laws regulating the possession and use of satellite phones in Russia, Cuba, China, Burma/Myanmar, Chad, Libya, Nigeria, Morocco, Sudan, and North Korea. This is not an all-inclusive list and is merely meant to show these types of restrictions are not uncommon.

This list above is not guaranteed to be accurate and was researched at the time this article was published. Laws change frequently and a lot of times without much publicity. The moral of this story is to be sure to do your research ahead of time and make sure you understand applicable laws for the location to which you are traveling. At a minimum, be sure to contact the U.S. Department of State, and preferably, the nearest foreign embassy to your final destination.

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