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DoT Meet To Finalise In-Flight Connectivity Rules To Take Place Today

The source adds DoT wishes to notify the rules by next month and call for applications from in-flight providers by end-October or early November.

Aiming to notify rules for in-flight connectivity by next month, the department of telecommunications (DoT) will have a final meeting with stakeholders on Tuesday.

The draft rules, sources said, mandate use of Indian satellites or those empanelled by the department of space. Also, the gateway or the servers must be based in India.

The sources said most stakeholders  including the ministries of aviation, home, defence and space agree on the draft. “However, minor changes in the language are required. For that, we are meeting with stakeholders to evolve a consensus. After the changes, these will be sent to the law ministry before being notified,” a source in DoT said.

The source adds DoT wishes to notify the rules by next month and call for applications from in-flight providers by end-October or early November. Actual services might take longer, as those wishing to provide it would have to enter into partnerships.

DoT had met airlines executives, telecom operators and satellite providers on the issue over recent months.

The department has 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 also felt a gateway should be in India for in-flight connectivity.

The department had earlier hoped to finalise the rules by the end of May. This was delayed to get a consensus.

In-flight connectivity allows a passenger on board a flight to use a mobile phone for making calls and messages. It is allowed in the European Union, America and Australia, among other places, with over 30 airlines offering the service. It is not permitted in Indian airspace.

Telecom operators and airlines are waiting for the rules before deciding on providing the service. Sector watchers say this is going to be a volume game and pricing could be much lower as compared to other markets providing such services.

Globally, data packs are charged at $9.99 for 150 Mb and $15.99 for 500 Mb.

A 2016 survey by Inmarsat found 83 per cent of passengers would prefer an airline offering the connectivity. – Business Standard

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