Soon, the ‘airplane mode’ on your smartphone will be of no use if you’re a frequent flier as TRAI is trying to allow mobile services and may even provide WiFi on flights. On Friday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said that the in-flight connectivity of both Internet and MCA (mobile communication on aircraft) services should be provided over Indian airspace.
According to a report by The Indian Express, TRAI said that the decision has to be taken up by the airline if they want to provide one or both the services. However, TRAI also said, “As long as the provision of the service is technically feasible and security concerns can be addressed, there should be no regulatory barrier in the provisioning of any of these services.” The advice from TRAI comes after multiple rounds of meetings and consultations with the industry and other stakeholders, which started in September 2017.
TRAI said, “Both Internet and MCA service should be permitted as in-flight connectivity (IFC) services in the Indian airspace.”
However, there is a catch to the advice from the TRAI. In order to maintain compatibility with terrestrial networks, TRAI has suggested that the minimum height at which mobile communication can be done should be restricted to 3,000 metres. As of now, a flight usually gets to the height within four to five minutes after take-off.
As far as providing the WiFi network, TRAI suggested that onboard internet services through Wi-Fi should be made available. As of now, electronic devices are allowed to use in airplane mode. TRAI asked that an announcement about the internet services should be made when boarding is over and the aircraft is about to taxi.
The authority said, “It would ensure that there is no encroachment on the scope of terrestrial Internet service provided by telecom service providers as well as practically there won’t be any appreciable discontinuity in the provisioning of Internet services to the fliers.”
It was way back in February 2017, when The Indian Express reported that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is in works of allowing in-flight connectivity which can be used by the passengers. Access to voice and data services on board aircraft flying over Indian airspace was the key area of the suggestion. The proposal, which was earlier being considered by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, was sent to DoT, which had sought TRAI’s views.