Indians could soon access internet and make phone calls in flight

Passengers may soon be able to use their mobiles internet in flights

Passengers may soon be able to use their mobiles internet in flights

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday gave a green signal for the use of internet and mobile communications on board aircraft flying in the 9.6 million sq km Indian airspace (includes space above the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal). It suggested a minimum height restriction of 3,000 m for mobile communication to maintain compatibility with the terrestrial mobile networks. To build an internet service in the flight, a separate category of 'IFC Service Provider' registered with DoT would be created to permit IFC services in the Indian airspace and a flat annual Licence Fee of token amount INR 1 would be imposed which may be later amended as well. It also recommended that the regulatory requirement should be the same for both Indian-registered and foreign-registered airlines for offering IFC services in Indian airspace. "Now it is up to airlines which one of these to offer", said a TRAI official speaking to Times of India.

Beyond 3,000 metres phone calls can be made or received and Internet services can be accessed.

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The in-flight connectivity can be offered on both global and domestic flights. If the recommendation is agreed upon, then the IFC service provider would be permitted to use either INSAT systems (Indian Satellite System or foreign satellite capacity leased through DoS) or foreign satellites outside INSAT systems in the Indian airspace. "The onboard Internet traffic must be routed to a Satellite Gateway on Indian soil, it added. But the downside could be the noise levels in flight could increase", said Hemant Joshi, Partner, Deloitte India.

TRAI said IFC services are generally provided through use of mobile satellite service with a mobile earth station installed in the aircraft to establish backhaul link with the ground.

The IANS report also put some light on the technicalities of the in-flight connectivity. Operators can offer Internet Services through Wi-Fi from this point onward. The flyers can also use the mobile services in the Indian airspace, but only above 3000 meters altitude. "The income will come not only from monetizing paid-for Wi-Fi access, but also from targeted shopping offers, advertising and sponsoring", said the study. We will keep a close eye on the future updates of TRAI's recommendation for in-flight calling and internet services.

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