In-flight calls, WiFi a step closer to reality as govt notifies rules

In-flight calls, WiFi a step closer to reality as govt notifies rules
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17 Dec, 2018

The central government’s Department of Telecommunications has notified a set of of rules for enabling in-flight connectivity through data and calls. 

The ‘Flight and Maritime Connectivity Rules 2018’ has opened up the application process for acquiring licences to be an In-Flight and Maritime Connectivity (IFMC) provider.

The service provider can provide mobile communication services in aircraft at a minimum height of 3,000 metres to avoid interference with terrestrial mobile networks. 

The rules allow Indian and foreign airlines or shipping companies to apply for authorisation by entering commercial agreements with Internet Service Providers. The licence fee is priced at a token amount of Re 1. Once granted, the licence shall be valid for ten years. 

The move comes after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in January issued recommendations for in-flight connectivity for phone communication and Wi-Fi services. 

The Telecom Commission headed by telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan cleared the TRAI recommendations in May and the final framing of the rules was expected by October. 

As part of its recommendations, DoT will leave the pricing of services to the market. Previously, the government of India had cited security concerns for not allowing in-flight connectivity. The in-flight connectivity initiative will also allow aircraft manufacturers, multinational telecom carriers and local broadband service providers to enter into business agreements.

However, industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had previously pointed out that the cost of domestic travel will not provide return on investment for providing such services. In-flight connectivity services are currently available on international airlines for a premium.