Russian Regulations on Satellite Phones:
There are new rules for satellite phones within Russia or its territories. The new regulations are intended to fight terrorism by intercepting calls to other countries. So, if you intend to use a satellite phone inside Russian territory, including Iridium handheld phones or even marine equipment such as the Iridium Openport, be sure to investigate these regulations carefully. Outfitter Satellite does not offer legal advice, and this article is not intended as legal guidance. We do hope that this article is food for thought, if you are traveling to the land of Kodiak bears and beluga caviar.
The regulatory process developed in several phases. First, there was a 6-month grace period that ends around April 2013. This will be followed by 2 years of new regulation and finally the opening of a Russian Iridium gateway. Afterwards, there may be a relaxation of the rules.
Rules for Russians:
If the Iridium satellite phone belongs to a Russian-based company or individual, it is mandatory that the SIM card be obtained through a local Iridium partner and be billed at the official Iridium-Russia rates. Expect somewhat higher costs than typically available in the United States. The few clients we have that have operated in Russia told us to expect slow customer service and long wait times. So, plan ahead.
Rules for Non-Russian Visitors:
If you are a visitor to Russia, then your satellite phone or terminal must be registered through iridium-russia.com as visiting SIM cards. Once registered, the SIM card can be used in Russian territory for a period of 6 months. If the visitor expects to return a second time during that 6 month period, they do not need to re-register. If they return again after the 6 month period has expired, they must re-register for another 6 month period. Registering can be thought of as getting a “VISA” for your satellite phone.
If you do intend to visit Russia, we recommend that you self-register your SIM cards at the above website. Satellite phones with unregistered SIM cards may be blocked so that they cannot access the Iridium network while in Russia. Even if your satellite phone is blocked during your visit, it will operate normally again once you have traveled outside of Russia.
Similar rules apply for Inmarsat BGAN and FBB terminals.