Wi-Fi in Indian skies soon, rules to be issued in 15 days



BY S VENKAT NARAYAN


Our Special Correspondent


NEW DELHI, December 13: Surfing the net while flying in Indian skies is soon going to be reality.


Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R S Sharmasaid on Wednesday that "In Flight Connectivity (IFC) shall be allowed" and the way how that is to be done will be given by the month-end.


"We are working on that and will issue the parameters for IFC of by the end of this calendar year, which means in the next 15 days or so," Sharma said.


The aviation ministry had about two years back recommended that IFC be allowed Indian skies and since then the proposal has been shuttling between various ministries like home (for security clearances) and then telecom for working out the way it has to be done.


Once TRAI issues IFC rules, individual airlines can set up infrastructure in accordance with them and ensure that flyers can surf the net, receive and send emails while flying in Indian skies.


The regulator is examining whether on board Internet should be allowed to flyers from the moment they board the aircraft to when they alight, or when the aircraft has reached an altitude of 3 km. And finally, whether Indian flyers should have access to both internet services and mobile communication services.


"Given the rapidly expanding demand for IFC, there is a proposal to introduce (it) for voice, data and video services over Indian airspace for domestic, international and overflying flight in Indian airspace. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), through its reference dated August 10, 2017, has requested TRAI to furnish its recommendations on licensing terms and conditions for provision of IFC for voice, data and video services and associated issues such as entry fee, licence fee, spectrum related issues including usage charges and method of allocation," the TRAI paper had said.


Even foreign carriers that offer Internet on their planes have to switch the same off while overflying Indian airspace if their service-provider does not have an Indian server.


There are two main types IFC services: Internet services through Wi-Fi onboard and Mobile Communication services onboard Aircraft (MCA). Internet services onboard are generally provided by all the IFC service providers. Lately, there is a demand for MCA services also, the telecom regulator says.


"To avoid causing harmful interference to ground-based mobile networks, GSM-based MCA are operated with a minimum height of at least 3,000 meters above ground level, without. However, in light of the growth of 'gate to gate connectivity' worldwide, as a consequence of the removal of altitude restrictions on the use of personal electronic devices (smart phones, laptop etc), stakeholders' view can be solicited whether internet services be made available from the boarding gate of the departure airport until the disembarking gate at the arrival airport," it says.


TRAI paper estimated the number of connected commercial aircraft is expected to grow from 5,300 in 2015 to 23,100 in 2025, accounting for 62% of the global fleet. "Another study predicts that the number of aircraft offering wireless connectivity will rise to 14,000 by 2022 (a 50% connectivity penetration in commercial aircrafts).


This study also projects that approximately 5,000 of these aircrafts will offer both Wi-Fi and cellular options. In-flight connectivity has come a long way since its inception a decade ago. Since 2007, in-flight communication services have been introduced by airlines in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South America," the paper says.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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