Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha on Wednesday said that armed as well as para-military forces will be able to make calls to their families using satellite phone for Re 1 per minute from Thursday.
The current call rate for most of such connections was Rs. 5 per minute, although some subsidised ones paid Re 1.
"On the eve of Diwali, we are announcing that Armed forces and para-military forces stationed in remote areas and tough terrains on borders will be able to make satellite phone calls at the rate of Re 1 per minute, instead of Rs. 5 applicable on it. This will enable them to talk their family for longer duration," Mr Sinha said.
The minister also announced that no rental will be charged from security forces from Thursday.
"At present, Rs. 500 monthly rent is charged for satellite phone connections from security forces. From tomorrow onwards, they will not need to pay any rental," Mr Sinha said.
Satellite phone service was earlier being provided by Tata Communications but now it will be provided by the state-run telecom firm BSNL.
The call charge was Re 1 in 2009-10 to begin with, to be revised every 5 years.
"We have decided that charges will be Re 1 only per call and not increased to Rs. 5," the telecom minister said.
Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said the cost will have an impact of Rs. 3-4 crore per annum which will be borne by the government.
At present there are 2,500 satellite phone connections operational in the country.
"We have capacity of 5,000 connections. We are informing the defence and the home ministries that more connections can be given. The total capacity can be further increased, if required, in six months," Mr Sinha added.