Gateway to Terror

DQI Bureau
New Update

ICT has contributed significantly to the stupendous GDP growth in India in

the recent past. But poor monitoring of telecom services, especially satellite

phones, has been a major cause for not being able to curb the magnitude of the

recent Mumbai attacks.


The attacks show that despite measures by telecom operators, SIM cards from

Indian operators were given to terrorists who reportedly came from Pakistan.

Reports also state that terrorists used four GPS-enabled handsets to enter

India, nine mobile phones for communication and a satellite phone was used to

guide terrorists through the attack. The satellite phone from Abu Dhabi-based

Thuraya used by the terrorists was what came as a challenge to the authorities.

The Satellite Connection

The buck passing among Indian security agencies is on but the truth cannot

be ignored. The government could not sense that a piece of satellite phone was

being used inside the country. Satellite for individual use is banned in India

because of security reasons. Tata Communications is the only telecom operator in

India that facilitates the use of Inmarsat-based satellite phones after

receiving the necessary approval from DoT.

Thuraya Dealer Network in Pakistan


The company has about 2,500 Inmarsat land mobile and sat phones registered

with it. Tata Communications facilitates the interception of conversations only

if the satellite phone is Inmarsat-based. We do not have the necessary authority

to detect/intercept unlicensed satellite phones, says a spokesperson from Tata


Today communications tools and gadgets are very easy to access and are

user-friendly. Operators must cooperate with the government to punish those who

misuse communications devices: unlike Thuraya which is yet to cooperate with the

Indian government because it has no business in India! We hope India can set a

new benchmark in bringing these operators to the discussion table and fix the

prevailing issue. Thuraya is a member of the International Telecommunication

Union which has condemned the 26/11 Mumbai attack.

ITU does not condone the misuse of these technologies and indeed we are

working toward strengthening network security and making cyberspace safer for

bona fide users. You will appreciate that no manufacturer can be held

responsible for the misuse of its products in this manner. Having said that, we

condemn the attacks in Bombay in no uncertain terms and join in solidarity with

the victims and their families and the people of India and other nationalities

who suffered in this heinous crime against humanity, says Sanjay Acharya,

spokesperson, ITU.


Thuraya has a network of twenty-one satellite phone dealers spread across

Pakistan. It has three dealers in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which has

been a place of strategic interest for Taliban and Al Qaeda. It has a dealer in

Chitral which shares a common border with Pak occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Kunar

province of East Afghanistan. Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of

the Mumbai terror attack, began his life in Kunar.

You can get a satellite phone in India for Rs 60,000. But there are stringent

provision for getting the license. One has to obtain the license from the

Wireless and Planning Commission for satellite phones.

We can sell satellite phones in India to those who have obtained licenses

from WPC. These are phone procured from our Singapore office, says Rahul

Thakkar, proprietor, Belifal Innovations & Technologies.

The Indian government has reportedly banned the use of satellite phones on

the pretext of security issues for general public but terrorists accused and

killed in the Mumbai attacks were not from India. A similar provision is

required in other parts of the world to increase monitoring of satellite phones

and keeps a check from falling into the wrong hands.

Prasoon Srivastava