1. Mid-air WiFi might soon be a possibility in India

Mid-air WiFi might soon be a possibility in India

Most airlines, including Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Indigo AirAsia and Vistara, are in discussions with the government to allow WiFi connectivity for passengers on board.

By: | New Delhi | Published: May 24, 2015 3:40 AM
wife on plane

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) might soon allow airline companies to offer WiFi to passengers on board. (Reuters)

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) might soon allow airline companies to offer WiFi to passengers on board. If all goes well, on-flight WiFi will be allowed at least on major routes between Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata.

Most airlines, including Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Indigo AirAsia and Vistara, are in discussions with the government to allow WiFi connectivity for passengers on board.

Civil aviation ministry officials said they are looking into the technicalities of the issue — whether the WiFi interferes with the navigation system of the aircraft or not.

Once these issues are sorted out, Indian flyers might soon be able to have continuous connectivity, said the
officials.

The aviation ministry is also in discussion with the department of telecommunications (DoT) to look at the feasibility of allowing in-flight internet services. The DoT is said to have informally conveyed to the ministry that offering the services is possible.

A huge portion of flyers in India are businessmen and professionals who are used to real-time connectivity. A large portion of them travel on a weekly basis, and prepare for meetings while in the flight, said analysts. On-board availability of the internet will be of immense value to such passengers.

A SpiceJet official said the matter is with the DGCA, which is looking into various aspects of allowing WiFi
while flying. Companies will need to purchase equipment that allow use of internet while flying.

In its current form, WiFi can be accessed when the aircraft is flying over land as the signals is beamed from towers. In future, however, there is work going on aerial beaming.

On board WiFi is available with some global airlines like Emirates, British Airways, Lufthansa, American Airlines and Singapore Airlines. Most international carriers are using the air-to-ground (ATG) technology, where the spectrum is beamed from the telecom towers on ground to the flights, using cellular technology and equipment.

However, the speeds that are available today are just 3.1 Mbps, but soon international airline operators will move to what is called next-generation ATG, where the speed will be up to 9.8 Mbps.

Vistara, which a joint venture between Tatas and Singapore Airlines, is working on a server on-board that will allow in-cabin streaming. “We are working on this. It will allow streaming to personal devices, so that they can enjoy content on their own devices,” said Phee Teik Yeoh, CEO of Vistara.

Last year, Air India confirmed that it was in talks with global agencies for it to allow passengers to use basic internet services like social media and email. The state-owned airlines was in talks with On Air, an airlines’ technology provider. On Air’s CEO Ian Dawkins last year said basic internet services is possible, and in future passengers will be able to access video content like YouTube mid-air.

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