Inflight Internet in India a Few Months Away: What You’ll Get
We’re just a few months away from getting access to the internet on flights in the country. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Department of Telecom (DoT) will make the final decision on how to roll out inflight WiFi services in the domestic sector.
The final word will be given in a month's time, after which airline authorities and carriers can plan their strategies to offer internet access to its passengers.
Big global satellite solution providers like Inmarsat, GoGo Air, and Hughes Network are working hard to get approvals and the technicalities cleared, and things are looking good, experts opine.
While most countries have already adopted inflight WiFi services, India is probably the last country to give the go ahead. The reasons are mostly fundamental, and TRAI is looking to make sure the juridical regulations are in place and done in the right manner.
The Quint spoke to representatives of companies involved in the service at the Broadband India Forum this week, and most shareholders believe India already has the policies in place. Now, it’s up to the DoT to give the required clearance to start inflight WiFi services.
Most passengers now expect airlines carriers to offer the service, and are even willing to pay for it, if they get the right standard of network coverage, according to Global Eagle, which specialises in inflight content.
The forum also highlighted the current state of IFC providers, with over 38 foreign airline carriers already serving India and another nine likely to offer IFC-enabled aircraft very soon.
Why the Delay?
So, why is the Indian regime apprehensive about IFC for airlines? Well, they want to sort out technicalities with regards to which services should be made available to passengers. The parties involved in this process need to clarify whether they want to only bring mobile internet via WiFi onboard or get WiFi and voice calling both.
In addition, the TRAI is also not keen on letting airlines offer its IFC services the moment the aircraft hits the runway, which is called gate-to-gate connectivity. In fact, they’d prefer airlines operate the IFC service once the aircraft reaches an altitude of 10,000 feet.
Oliveau pointed out that the IFC business doesn’t reap quick returns, but the sheer potential in a market like India pulls them over, giving them the hope that the long-term benefit outweighs their short-term pitfall.
Oliveau suggested that it’s quite possible to offer IFC services free of cost, but only if the operator and the carrier are willing to bear the cost of upholding the equipment which provides internet airborne.
It’ll be interesting to see if carriers warm up to offering ‘free of cost’ internet on domestic flight, that too when the base fares continue to fall (while the jet fuel prices shoot up). And there’s money to be made.
The numbers being talking up are just an indication of how big IFC could be from a revenue standpoint. The question, however, remains – will the regulatory bodies see what the economy and passengers are missing out on and finally cave to industry pressure?
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