The high-powered inter-ministerial Telecom Commission, headed by Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, approved in-flight mobile connectivity in Indian airspace on May 1, 2018, thus, allowing people to make phone calls and use internet services in flights over Indian airspace, with certain riders.
Telecom Commission’s approval comes months after the telecom regulator TRAI recommended for in-flight mobile telephony and internet services.
In-Flight Connectivity (IFC)
• The Internet and Mobile Communication on Aircraft (MCA) service will be permitted as In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) in the Indian airspace.
• The MCA services will be permitted with minimum height restriction of 3000 metres in Indian airspace for its compatibility with terrestrial mobile networks. A flight generally attains the altitude of 3000 metres about four-five minutes after take-off.
• Subsequently, the government will now work towards creating the license framework for a special category of service providers called ‘In-flight connectivity provider’.
The implementation of this initiative will boost the passenger experience, with passengers being able to order products from their phones and tablets and having them delivered to their homes or the hotel on arrival at their destination.
Through in-flight mobile connectivity, cabin crews will be able to help passengers to change their onward transit plans to accommodate changes to their flight, while they are still flying.
Other approvals accorded by Telecom Commission
• Telecom Commission, the highest decision making body of telecom department, also approved regulator recommendations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on internet telephony.
• The commission also approved the creation of an ombudsman under TRAI to deal with telecom grievances. Nearly 10 million grievances are received per quarter in telecom sector.
As per Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, over 30 airlines allow the use of mobile phones on aircraft. These airlines are AirAsia, Air France, British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
As of now, more than 40 jurisdictions, including countries in the European Union, Asia and Australia, allow the use of mobile communications services on aircraft.