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Israeli company NovelSat bags BSNL contract for satellite internet in Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep islands

Israeli firm NovelSat has been awarded a contract from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited for expanding satellite internet access in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep, the company announced in a press release. The tender was awarded by systems integrator Precision Electronics Limited, it said.

“BSNL is looking to increase its network capacity to address growing demand for broadband amidst sharp rise in data consumption across users and locations. PEL along with its technology partner NOVELSAT addressed the BSNL requirement, and in turn their customer BSNL selected NOVELSAT’s Xnet Data hub system,” the company said in the press release.

Why satellite internet?

It is curious that the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are getting supplementary satellite internet access, considering that the Union Territory recently received 200+200Gbps in submarine cable bandwidth. If delivered thoroughly each resident within the group of Islands could receive 1Mbps worth of internet bandwidth, which is double the Indian definition of broadband. This announcement also comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that an undersea cable project between Kochi and Lakshadweep would be operational sometime in 2023.

Lakshadweep had only 352Mbps in satellite bandwidth in 2019, according to a report by the government’s Universal Service Obligation Fund. Even after a planned upgrade, per that report, the bandwidth would be 1.71Gbps, which is low for the archipelago’s over 64,000-strong population.

Both archipelagos suffer from substandard internet delivery. Even today, older and slower technologies like 2G and satellite continue to be rolled out to the Islands for the first time. This has particularly angered Reliance Jio, which over the last three years has accused the government of creating “2G islands” by issuing fresh tenders requiring support for that technology.

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In November 2020, a Department of Telecom official pointed out that satellite internet remained essential for connecting remote areas. K Ramchand, Member (Technology) of the Department of Telecommunications, said  “We have requirement of satellite communication in the remotest areas, like the Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands. Even though recently the former were connected through a submarine cable, we continue to have satellite connectivity as a backup.”

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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