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Home / Tech / Telecom panel gives nod to in-flight mobile calls, data services

Telecom panel gives nod to in-flight mobile calls, data services

Mobile calling service would be permitted above 3,000m in Indian airspace and the service should be through an Indian satellite and or a Department of Space-approved satellite, and the gateway should also be in India.

tech Updated: May 01, 2018 23:23 IST
Navadha Pandey
Navadha Pandey
TRAI  had earlier recommended allowing in-flight mobile telephony and internet services.
TRAI had earlier recommended allowing in-flight mobile telephony and internet services. (Shutterstock)

Flyers will soon be able to make calls from their mobile phones and surf the internet on all flights in Indian airspace after the Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body at the department of telecommunications (DoT), approved the move, telecom secretary Aruna Sundarajan said.

“We will now have to create a separate category of licencees called in-flight connectivity provider. These will provide internet as well as voice services within Indian territorial airspace... in both domestic and international flights,” Sundararajan told reporters.

The telecom department will now start the process of framing licence terms for in-flight connectivity (IFC) providers and then invite applications, she said, adding that this process could take three months. IFC providers will be required to pay an annual licence fee of Re1 initially. “It is a fabulous decision. Given the nature of my job, I’m constantly travelling and it is my downtime when I take flights, which now I can use more productively. With data availability, I can catch up on work, read online and stay connected,” said Abhishek Ganguly, managing director of Puma India.

Mobile calling service would be permitted above 3,000m in Indian airspace and the service should be through an Indian satellite and or a Department of Space-approved satellite, and the gateway should also be in India. The telecom regulator had recommended in January that the government allow foreign satellites and gateways.

The telecom department will leave the pricing of these services to the market.

“The pricing would depend on the airline, sometimes it is a part of the ticket and sometimes you are charged (rates)... that could start from $5-10. Indian airlines will have to see what passengers will be willing to shell out,” said Neelu Khatri, president of aerospace at Honeywell India. The company offers high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi to airlines globally.

Meanwhile, the CAPA Centre for Aviation believes there may not be a business case for providing such services in domestic flights. “Airlines will have to create a business case for the investment needed. Rough estimates suggest fitting the equipment to provide such services in an aircraft could cost around $400,000-600,000... airlines will have to see whether the investment is recoverable, what is the cost per minute, etc... initially the cost to the passenger may be on the higher side,” said Kapil Kaul, CEO and director, CAPA South Asia.

(Saumya Tewari in New Delhi contributed to this story)