British troops in A'stan find festive minutes in Santa's sack

'Sorry love, bit of a firefight going on outside'

British soldiers on active service will get an extra half-hour of phone calls home this Christmas, and cheaper calling from Afghanistan too.

Soldiers already get half an hour of free phone calls to the UK every week, and will get an extra half-hour for Christmas. Those in Afghanistan will be able to buy more minutes for 6.5 pence each, compared to the 11 pence they're currently forking out for every minute speaking to family and friends.

Considering a Skype call to Afghanistan will set the family back more than 24 pence a minute that's pretty good, though we suspect the UK's armed forces have more infrastructure in place than Skype.

The Ministry Of Defence buys its minutes, including the half hour for every soldier abroad, from Paradigm, which has agreed to the cost reduction. This makes sense as it's probably covered its own infrastructure costs given the extended stay.

Paradigm provides the service over three satellites, the first having been launched in 2007. Its primary business is military communication, but it also carries voice calls and internet access to troops abroad, and has been providing phone connections to soldiers in Afghanistan for the last two years.

Troops in forward bases still have to fall back on the Iridium network, though they don't pay more for that and Paradigm is spreading its voice and internet services, including Wi-Fi, forwards. Wi-Fi and internet access is free for troops, with Wi-Fi being more valued as it's available in the privacy of the accommodation, but not every trooper has a laptop handy for VoIPing home. ®

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