By Elton Gomes
Passengers will now be able to avail data and voice connectivity services during flights in India, after a proposal for the same was approved by the Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body at the department of telecommunications (DoT).
In-flight connectivity service is expected to be rolled out within three to four months after licensing and agreements are complete, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told the press.
To streamline the process, the government will now work towards developing a license based framework for a special category of service providers known as “in-flight connectivity provider.” Both Indian and foreign airlines will be free to provide internet services to passengers, and pricing for these services will be up to the discretion of airlines and service providers.
However, the service will be provided only over Indian airspace. As per TRAI’s (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) recommendations, in-flight connectivity can be availed once the aircraft has reached an altitude of 3,000 metres. The restriction was imposed to maintain compatibility with terrestrial networks. Generally, a flight reaches an altitude of 3,000 metres roughly five minutes after taking off.
Public wi-fi hotspots will also be increased from 38,000 to 5 lakh as the commission approved TRAI’s recommendations on increasing the number of public hotspots.
Here’s what happened
TRAI permitted data services in flights in India and issued recommendations on in-flight connectivity in January 2018. Under its recommendations, the regulatory body “allowed to offer both these (internet and mobile data) services to flyers with certain conditions put in place for security reasons.”
Towards the end of January, the Times of India reported that passengers could avail in-flight data connectivity services; however, they would have to pay at least 20 to 30 percent of the ticket price to avail the services. It was reported that airlines were considering options to introduce the facility.
No official statement has been released regarding the cost of in-flight data connectivity services which has been left up to the airlines and service providers.
A majority of countries provide in-flight wi-fi services. However, India initially seemed a bit hesitant to do the same. A report in India Today mentions that a pressing concern was security. The Indian government was scared that such services can be used for wrong purposes, and hijacking of planes alleviate that fear. Additionally, the fear of a cyber attack kept the government on its toes.
Why you should care
The availability of in-flight connectivity services means that passengers will have a better experience. With effective pricing policies, in-flight connectivity will surely thrive amongst Indian travellers. The heavily anticipated move can benefit foreign flyers as well, thereby leading to a wholly connected experience.
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