NEW DELHI: Air travellers in India and also those flying over the country can now have onboard access to internet and mobile phone services with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) allowing in-flight connectivity (IFC) on Friday.
The decision paves the way for airlines to offer these services once they meet certain security norms. While internet can be provided from the moment a plane taxies and personal electronic devices (PEDs) put on “flight mode”, mobile phone services will be allowed when aircraft are flying above an altitude of 3,000 metres. The operation of MCA (mobile communication on aircraft) services has a minimum height restriction of 3,000 metres in Indian airspace to ensure its “compatibility with terrestrial mobile networks”.
“We have allowed both mobile communication on aircraft (MCA) and onboard internet as IFC in Indian airspace. Now it is up to airlines which one of these to offer,” said a Trai official. Most airlines globally offer Wi-Fi on board as allowing mobile calls is seen as “too much of a nuisance” for fellow travellers.
The final nod comes almost three years after the aviation ministry first mooted the idea.
No Indian airline, however, has said if and by when they will offer IFC on their flights. Vistara said it “continually reviews (its) product offerings and this will be reviewed as part of that process”.
Foreign airlines which already provide IFC but had to switch the same off in Indian airspace also did not say if they will now provide it on flights to, from and over India.
Trai has recommended a separate category of “IFC service provider” which will be “required to get itself registered with the department of telecom and it need not necessarily be an Indian entity”. Also, the regulatory requirements could be the same for both Indian and foreign airlines for offering IFC services in Indian airspace.
“To promote the adoption of IFC services in Indian airspace, the IFC service provider should be imposed a flat annual licence fee of a token amount of Re 1.” However, the same may be reviewed and amended at a later stage, if need be,” Trai says.
A uniform framework will cover all types of aircrafts – schedule airlines, charters and business jets.“The deployment of a gateway in India provides an effective mechanism to intercept and monitor the in-cabin internet traffic while the aircraft is in Indian airspace. The onboard internet traffic must be routed to a satellite gateway on Indian soil. Such an obligation should be imposed regardless of whether the satellite in question is an Indian satellite system or not,” Trai says.
In Video: TRAI proposes in-flight internet and mobile services