Inflight Internet in India a Few Months Away: What You’ll Get
Inflight Internet in India a Few Months Away: What You’ll Get
(Photo: The Quint)

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.

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

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.

Globally, 77 percent of all passengers were willing to pay for inflight WiFi services in 2017, and the number pretty much holds true for Indian travellers as well.

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.

Family entertainment plans could be a big hit onboard. 
Family entertainment plans could be a big hit onboard. 
(Photo: iStock)
This is where the disagreement has surfaced, especially with telecom operators keen to push Indian regulators to offer it gate-to-gate, which is the global standard. 
Gate-to-gate IFC services give mobile operators the chance to make revenue, and we’re talking to few Indian players to get this going, but for that, we need the regulators to clear the motion. 
Greg Oliveau, business development, Gogo Air Inc
The WiFi transmitter fits right on top of the airline and adds to the weight of the plane. 
The WiFi transmitter fits right on top of the airline and adds to the weight of the plane. 
(Photo Courtesy: Honeywell)

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.

By 2025, the Indian market will have four times the air travellers as of today. 

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.

I’ve been travelling to India for the past three-and-a-half years, and my estimates suggest that the country’s economy has lost around $25 million by not offering IFC services.
Greg Oliveau, business development, Gogo Air Inc

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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