TRAI’s new directive is no less than a new year gift for the netizens of the country. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is chalking out a plan to issue regulations for the in-flight connectivity (IFC) by the end of this month which means that Indian fliers will be able to access the internet while onboard an aircraft from the next year. As per an IANS report, the TRAI Chairman R S Sharma stated that recommendations on in-flight connectivity could come out by the year or next 15 days. However, he cleared that the IFC will be allowed in India and the awaited recommendations will decide the parameters for connectivity services provided on flights. Notably, it is up to the airline carriers operating in India to set up the required infrastructure and deliver internet and other connectivity services to their passengers after the TRAI puts out the rules governing IFC.
Underscoring the rise in demand for Mobile Communication services onboard Aircraft (MCA) services, the IFC has reportedly been in talks for the past two years, but has been awaiting departmental clearances. As of now, aircrafts have to switch IFC services onboard as they enter Indian airspace due to the absence of certification.
In line with growing demand for IFC services, which was fast becoming a deciding factor in business class flier selecting an airline, the telecom regulator, in September this year, had issued a consultation paper inviting comments and counter comments on the issue from the stakeholders. The submissions for the same ended on November 3. The paper was issued to ponder on questions like which of the IFC services should be permitted in India – internet services, or MCA services, or both of them. TRAI had also invited suggestions on whether the altitude restrictions on IFC services should be revoked as air travel now offer “gate to gate connectivity”. The GSM-based MCA services are operated with a minimum height of 3000 meters from ground level to check interference to mobile networks on the ground.
“Although in-flight Wi-Fi hasn’t been available for very long, passenger surveys show growing demand for this service among travellers. International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) 2014 global passenger survey reveals that 80 percent of the passengers would use Wi-Fi if offered on board a flight,” the TRAI consultation paper had said.
TRAI chairman told IANS that the regulatory body intends to submit its view on the New Telecom Policy to the Department of Telecommunications soon which is expected to be floored by the government by March 2018.