Get Set Wi-Fi: In-Flight Internet Is Finally Coming to India!

In-flight connectivity will work in the country once airline operators upgrade their on-board systems. 

Tech News
4 min read
Soon you will be able to browse the internet, send messages, and even make calls.

You step inside a flight in India and once the plane is about to take off, your mobile phones just stop mattering. There’s no internet service for you at 35,000 feet. Hence, your life stops right there.

But that is about to change in 2018, with various domestic airlines prepping up to roll out in-flight Wi-Fi with speeds as good as 5 Mbps. Not bad, eh?

Stay Online Sky-High

We are hopeful that Indian airline operators will be able to offer in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity. The prices will vary according to the airlines and offerings that the passenger selects.
Sasi Kancharla, Honeywell Aerospace India 

Honeywell Aerospace is one of the companies enabling airlines in India to go online, mid-air.

(Infographics: Rahul Gupta/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Infographics: Rahul Gupta/The Quint)

Globally, Ku Band was the go-to in-flight technology for airlines until 2014, but you’ll be pleased to know India is getting the latest standard available, offering fast speed internet.

Ku-band satellite communication systems have been used by airlines for in-flight Wi-Fi since 2004.

However, the growing need for more data bandwidth and speed at a lower cost has resulted in airlines moving to the new network standard.

So, now that we know how in-flight Wi-Fi works, it is also vital to know the technology that powers this connectivity.

Engineers fitting in-flight Wi-Fi router on a test Boeing B757 plane. (Photo Courtesy: Honeywell Aerospace)
Engineers fitting in-flight Wi-Fi router on a test Boeing B757 plane. (Photo Courtesy: Honeywell Aerospace)

Meet Ka Band: The Future of In-Flight Wi-Fi

With Ka Band, in-flight Wi-Fi is capable of receiving speeds up to 3700 Mbps per satellite, which can transmit as many as 50 beams
Sasi Kancharla, Honeywell Aerospace India 

What Ka Band Offers

  • 4 times more speed in-flight compared to previous network
  • Offers better quality videos, fast performance
  • It has the ability to make the Wi-Fi signal beam much stronger by connecting to multiple satellites.
Imagine Ku Band like your 2G phone and Ka Band as upgrading to a 4G device. It provides fast performance, high-quality videos and more.  

What You can Do With In-Flight Wi-Fi

  • Send and receive emails and text messages via electronic devices
  • Browse web pages aka internet
  • Make and receive phone calls
This is how the in-flight Wi-Fi routers is affixed to the Boeing B757 test plane. (Photo Courtesy: Honeywell Aerospace)
This is how the in-flight Wi-Fi routers is affixed to the Boeing B757 test plane. (Photo Courtesy: Honeywell Aerospace)

What we don’t know is which flights will be the first ones to make the move. But as pointed out by Sasi, the quality of speed available with in-flight Wi-Fi depends on:

The number of flights that an airline takes. For e.g, a Delhi to Mumbai flight has a better chance of giving faster internet speeds, than a flight from Delhi to Jaipur
Sasi Kancharla, Honeywell Aerospace India 

Challenges for In-Flight Wi-Fi in India

With the help of firms like Honeywell, the Civil Aviation Ministry, along with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Government of India (DGCA) have finally got the confidence to go ahead with this technology.

Yes, for a country that’s strayed from standardising in-flight Wi-Fi usage, Sasi points out the work that is to be done for airlines to get required approvals from the ministry.

Airlines in India will have to bring software and hardware capability to its fleet. This increases the weight of the airlines. It is doable for long haul and big aircraft, but it is difficult for the narrow body/short haul flights 
Sasi Kancharla, Honeywell Aerospace India 

This apart, he also stressed on the need for airlines to focus on the security bit that comes along when using data connectivity.

Airline operators should have the ability to zero down on any message transmitted by using in-flight Wi-Fi. It should be able to track down Instant Messenger (IM) addresses. Globally, few airlines have the ability to track the IM addresses already.
Sasi Kancharla, Honeywell Aerospace India 

That’s where the privacy trouble starts posing serious questions, but I guess that’s the price you pay when it comes to national security.

But it’s good to see that the DGCA and the Civil Aviation Ministry have given the go-ahead, now it is up to the airlines to get their systems upgraded at the earliest.

So, are you excited about the prospect of staying connected even while you’re flying? We sure can’t wait to test it out soon.

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