Chargeable service: Trai’s plan for in-flight telecom services cleared

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New Delhi | Published: May 2, 2018 3:01:47 AM

Domestic air travellers will soon be able to talk as well as surf the internet while flying as the Telecom Commission on Tuesday accepted the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai’s) recommendations to allow in-flight connectivity (IFC).

air india, vistara, airlines, flight, WiFi, Wifi in flight, inflight internet, internet on flight, voice calls in flight, in flight voice serviceHowever, the quality of voice and data services is not as good as it is in terrestrial networks.

Domestic air travellers will soon be able to talk as well as surf the internet while flying as the Telecom Commission on Tuesday accepted the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai’s) recommendations to allow in-flight connectivity (IFC). However, the system will not be an extension of the services being provided by mobile operators. And the charges are also likely to be higher than what one pays otherwise.

To begin with, a separate class of licensees will be created which will be called IFC. The charges for such licences will be a token Rs 1. The IFCs will then need to tie-up with access service providers – the likes of Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio. Connectivity will be provided on the flights via a satellite link. Charges will be more because the IFC will need to pay carriage cost and termination rates to access service providers.

In-flight services can only begin when a flight is above 3,000 metres. During take-off and landing, such services will not be permitted. One can use voice, SMS and data services but different airlines can put some kind of etiquette in place for voice calls considering that the aircraft can otherwise become noisy.

On tariffs, analysts estimate that since it will be a premier service, rates will be higher than what is the normal. It is estimated that for domestic flights, the average time when such services will be applicable will be around one hour and data rates could be Rs 100 for 500 MB.

The rates can vary from airline to airline as different IFCs will negotiate with them for revenue share. The rates can also vary between different class of passengers, for instance, business class travellers may get more data for less money than economy class passengers. Singapore Airlines, for example, offers 100 MB data free to its first class and business class passengers in India-bound flights. For economy class passengers data packs are available starting $5.

However, the quality of voice and data services is not as good as it is in terrestrial networks. To give an example, data quality can be like what it was in dial-up internet days. The quality of text messages (SMS) is likely to work perfectly well.

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