Indian flights will have WiFi soon — leaving only North Korea behind
- The ball is finally rolling to bring Wi-Fi into the Indian airspace after two years of deliberations.
BSNLhas procured the “in-flight and maritime connectivity” (IFMC) license from Inmarsat, a British telecommunications satellite company that offers global mobile services.
- India is, reportedly, the only country not in-flight connectivity within its airspace aside from North Korea.
- The option to activate in-flight connectivity is expected to go live later this year.
- The price for availing this service will be determined by the airlines.
India's state run telecom operator, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) procured the license from Inmarsat, a British telecommunications satellite company that offers global mobile services.
BSNL first indicated that flight passengers will be able to use internet on flights within the year in July 2017 after gaining the requisite approvals from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). In May, last year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said that in-flight Wi-Fi would be live within the next 3 to 4 months.
Even now, despite attaining the license, the actual implementation of the technology will take a few more months.
Inmarsat and BSNL are expected to commence services later this year once the ground infrastructure and associated approvals are in place.
Aside from India, North Korea is the only country to not allow in-flight connectivity so far which the Indian government maintains was due to national security reasons.
Once the service is available, it's unlikely to be cheap. TRAI also indicated that it would be the airlines that would set the prices for in-flight connectivity.
Meanwhile, since India didn't have a license, companies like Airtel found workarounds. For instance, it founded the 'Seamless Alliance' during the Mobile World Congress (MWC 2018) along with OneWeb, Airbus, Delta and Sprint to give flight passengers access to the internet.
In the past, foreign players like Qatar Airways and Lufthansa — that already provide in-flight Wi-Fi when flying over other regions — have requested the same from the Indian government. Even local airlines like SpiceJet, IndiGo, and Vistara have expressed the importance of having the option to provide onboard Wi-Fi.
TRAI's recommendation is that a separate category of licenses called 'in-flight connectivity providers' should be created. Aside from airplanes, ships would be eligible to apply as well. The token license fee would be ₹1, applicable to anyone who wants to operate 3,000 meters above sea level.
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