One of the most common question readers ask me is “How is the mobile phone connectivity in Spiti Valley?”. Mobile communication or staying connected with our loved ones is an integral part of our lifestyles in this modern era. Unfortunately, things aren’t as rosy as we may assume when it comes to communications or staying connected in the remote parts of the Himalayas. Well, I know that the season of Spiti Valley is going to be over but in this article today, I will share some tips on mobile phone connectivity in Spiti Valley and Kinnaur Valley.
Tips on Mobile Phone Connectivity in Spiti Valley & Kinnaur Valley
Given below are some tips which will surely help you to set your expectations right in terms of phone connectivity before you make a trip to Spiti Valley or Kinnaur Valley in the next season. I have tried to cover the phone connectivity over Hindustan – Tibet Highway and NH-22. Please read them carefully before planning for your next Spiti & Kinnaur Valley trip.
1. Pre-paid & post-paid connections work in Spiti Valley & Kinnaur Valley, unlike Ladakh
Many people confuse Spiti Valley with Ladakh. However, it is different and even the boundaries of the states are different. Ladakh lies in Jammu and Kashmir state while Spiti Valley lies in Himachal Pradesh. Hence, the communication rules applied are also as per state law regulations. Unlike we read in the article on Phone Connectivity in Leh – Ladakh, there is no restriction of usage of pre-paid mobile connections of other states in Himachal Pradesh. Hence, as long as you can find a signal, even your pre-paid connections will work just fine in Spiti Valley and Kinnaur Valley.
2. Only BSNL works in Spiti Valley
Only BSNL/MTNL connection will work in parts of Spiti valley and has the widest coverage of connectivity. The quality may not be that good always. So, carry a BSNL or MTNL connection with you. Other networks just remain dead and Airtel works only in Kinnaur Valley upto Spillow, just ahead of Kalpa/Reckong Peo in Kinnaur Valley. Airtel also works up to Gramphu while coming from Manali to Kaza. I personally prefer wide coverage over better quality any day because at least you can convey your message by SMS if you have connectivity with you. However, sometimes SMS also does not work. Having said all that, the connectivity and reach has greatly improved in last few years and improving every year.
3. Intermittent phone connectivity on routes to Spiti Valley
When you travel from Shimla to Kinnaur Valley both Airtel and BSNL connections work almost up to Spello village and goes somewhere between Spello and Puh. Both Airtel and BSNL connectivity is available in Sangla, Kalpa, Chitkul and Reckong Peo. Spello is about 42 Kms from Reckong Peo and Puh is further 28 km from Spello. The connections go about 8-10 KMs ahead of Spello. Then, you will get BSNL connectivity around Puh which goes away few KMs after you cross it. Only when you reach Nako, you again get back the BSNL connectivity which again goes away up to Tabo, where it comes back again.
If you are traveling to Spiti Valley from Manali side, then, in that case, you will get phone connectivity up to Manali for all major network carriers. Once you move towards Rohtang Pass, connections work little ahead of Marhi and then fades away until you reach Gramphu. At Gramphu, you will get weak signals of both Airtel and BSNL but vanishes once you enter the road to Spiti Valley. After crossing Gramphu, you enter a desolated, deadliest and a network dead zone. There is no connectivity on this stretch of about 85 KMs, Gramphu (66 KMs) – Chattru (81 KMs) – Chota Dhara (98 KMs) – Batal (113 KMs) – Kunzum Pass (131 KMs) – Losar (151 KMs). Once you reach Losar, the BSNL connection works if the generator powering the tower is operational/running. There is no phone connectivity on the route from Batal to Chandratal as well
4. Only a few routes/places have phone connectivity in Spiti Valley
Tabo does have BSNL connectivity but as soon you cross it, there is an intermittent network all the way up to Kaza. Pin Valley also have intermittent connectivity and so as adjoining villages like Mane village, Dhankar village, Lhalung village. Once you reach Kaza, you get better and quite stable connectivity. However, even the BSNL connectivity at Komic and Kibber villages is very poor but the connections works fine at Key monastery, mostly. When you move from Kaza towards Losar – Kunzum Pass, then you will get connectivity up to few KMs ahead of Rangrik village. After that for about 40 KMs, there is no phone connectivity up to Losar, where you get the phone connectivity if power is available.
5. Winters have erratic phone connectivity in Spiti Valley
There may not be any phone connectivity in Spiti Valley during the winter months. It all depends upon the damage caused by the snow as at times the connectivity poles are blown away by snow or gets buried under snow. At times, the electricity does not come for 2-3 months as well in winters. When I was there in 2014, there was no connectivity or electricity for last few months. Totally landlocked in nature for 10 days 😉 😉 …
6. Use satellite phones only in emergency
On Manali – Kunzum Pass – Kaza route, Batal has a satellite phone installed at Chandra dhabha. It is available at Rs 2/minute for STD/ISD to make a call in case of emergency but again keep it only for emergency only 😛 😉 .. Who knows, abusing such life-saving emergency facilities may end up in a lost cause in real emergencies and you could be the one to suffer too. Hence, use such facilities only in case of emergencies, not for any personal use.
7. Well inform your family and friends
It is always better that you keep informing your families and friends while leaving for the day and after ending the day. You never know when and where you will get the signal next time on the trip. I have this habit of keeping my family informed about my whereabouts as it eases their nerves back home. And it helps me keep going on future trips 😉
Pro Tip: If you are doing a self drive to Zanskar Valley, then make sure to read the article 40 Must Have Things to Carry on a Self Drive Trip to Zanskar Valley
8. Data connectivity in Spiti Valley
7. Data connectivity in Spiti Valley is mostly limited to 2G/GPRS that too around Kaza. The 3G connectivity is rarely experienced and of course, do not match up speeds you are used to in cities :)… Otherwise, you can use WIFI connections which available in some hotels or cyber cafes. What I remember most from my remotest and disconnected experience is that WhatsApp always work to communicate somehow even on slow connections. You might not be able to transfer pictures BUT for sure you will be able to pass the messages or communicate most of the time even when the connection is too slow to even load Google properly 😉 ;)…
9. Plan for no connectivity in Spiti Valley
Never plan a Spiti Valley trip dependent upon on the mobile or phone communications. If you feel that you will call someone to prepare for next day plan or help find better stay or just make that office meeting decision over the phone, then better be on your own as at times even Kaza may be out of connectivity as well for weeks. Hence, plan or mitigate everything before venturing into the trip.
10. Be proactive and disciplined
Be ready to be proactive & disciplined because at times in remote places the mobile connectivity tower will work just in the morning working hours and/or when there is electricity available. For example, the BSNL tower at Losar village works on the generator and is shut down at night. So, make the best use of connectivity that you might get any time in the day or night at any remote place in order to connect with your family and friends.
11. Above all, have some patience 🙂
Last but not the least, have patience within yourself and consider you are back in the era of landlines with poor connections, either calls not making through or dropping off or takes 100s of attempts to make a call or send a message. Be ready to have tons of missed call alert messages once you return :)… This is mostly usual at places with connectivity other than Kaza. Hence, tell your family and friends too about it before leaving for a Spiti Valley trip. They may not be able to connect through due to same issues also, so nothing to worry about as it is usual in general.
Additional: Always carry a couple of power banks to charge your mobile
Electricity in Ladakh or Spiti Valley may be erratic and in case you are sleeping overnight at some remote place, power banks may come in handy not to restore the power of your phone but to enable them to take more pictures and videos too. The places like Chandratal, Langza, Hikkim, Komic, Pin Valley, Dhangkar, Kibber, etc.. may or may not have electricity. Sometimes the electricity is available in morning/evening only. So, having a good backup power bank could really prove helpful to charge your mobile phones on regular basis. I wonder how much more I use my iPhone camera now than my DSLR camera only because of ease of use, flexibility, feature and even transfer/share of pictures in instant. So, it is not just talking time or SMS that I require battery power on my phone. Hence, while traveling to remote places in the Himalayas like Ladakh, Zanskar Valley or Spiti Valley, it is always wise to carry a good power bank of 20000 mAH.
I hope the above tips on mobile phone connectivity in Spiti Valley and Kinnaur Valley will help you plan your next trip to the region in better and expected way without any surprises. In case, you have any questions, tips or story to share on Spiti Valley or Kinnaur Valley, feel free to post them either in the comments section of this article below or in the “Ask a Travel Question” section of the website. You can also take guidance from other travel experts in DoW Community.
LAST UPDATED: 13th May 2018
This article has been updated with the latest information about phone connectivity in Spiti Valley and Kinnaur Valley. It is kept up to date every season to reflect the current status. Feel free to suggest any further updates you deem fit.