No more ‘flight mode’! Passengers may soon get mid-air connectivity

Published: December 9, 2018 5:51 AM

Only Indian satellites or those approved by the department of space will be allowed to offer in-flight connectivity services in the country.

Draft rules make it mandatory for in-flight connectivity service providers or airlines to have a gateway or server located in India. (Representational photo)

By Kiran Rathee

You will soon be able to surf the internet and make calls while in the air, as the department of telecommunications (DoT) is likely to notify in-flight connectivity norms by the end of this month, taking India in the league of nations that offer on-board connectivity.

As per sources, the DoT has already sent the revised draft rules for vetting to the law ministry, and once approved, the norms will be notified. The law ministry had asked for minor tweaking in the draft rules prepared by DoT, while also suggesting some changes in the language.

“We have done the changes requested by the law ministry and resent the draft to the ministry a couple of days ago. We are expecting to notify the rules by the end of this month,” an official in DoT told FE.

It must be mentioned that the draft rules make it mandatory for in-flight connectivity service providers or airlines to have a gateway or server located in India. The condition has been retained despite various international airlines seeking a waiver to have a server in India. An official said DoT was not very adamant on the condition, but the home ministry, as well as law enforcement agencies, stressed to mandate setting up of a gateway in India due to security concerns.

Also, only Indian satellites or those approved by the department of space will be allowed to offer in-flight connectivity services in the country. The DoT has also not agreed to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s proposed use of foreign satellites and gateways for providing in-flight services. A committee of secretaries (from the home, defence, aviation and space minstries, with intelligence agencies) had felt a gateway should be in India for in-flight connectivity.

A DoT official said a few companies, including leading in-flight mobile service provider Sitaonair, have already approached them showing interest in offering services in India. “Telecom operators may also be interested in providing such services but mostly the demand is likely to come from specialised firms like Sitaonair,” the official said. The DoT will create a separate category of licences for in-flight service providers, which will pay an annual licence fee of Rs 1 initially.

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