IndiGo wants to offer Wi-Fi in the sky; DoT to meet telecom operators soon

The DoT will create a separate category of such licences

The country’s largest airline, IndiGo, has shown interest in providing in-flight connectivity services to flyers on board, and has reached out to the department of telecommunications (DoT) on the issue.

Besides IndiGo, one of the leading satellite service providers also contacted DoT after the Telecom Commission cleared the proposal for in-flight connectivity services in Indian airspace on May 1.

According to sources, the DoT will meet telecom operators as well as officials from the civil aviation ministry in the next couple of days to chalk out a road map for proliferation of such services. Although no date has been set for the roll-out of in-flight connectivity services, the DoT is hopeful that the services will be available commercially within four months.

The DoT and the civil aviation ministry will work out the modalities, and licences will be awarded to in-flight service providers at an annual fee of Rs 1 initially. The DoTwill create a separate category of such licences. Service providers need to partner telecom operators and register with the DoT.

IndiGo did not respond to a request for comments till the time of going to press.

Since the proposal does not need Cabinet approval, the DoT has already started working on the regulatory framework and the eligibility criteria for in-flight service providers. The DoT was likely to garner more insights from operators and the civil aviation ministry, sources said.

In-flight connectivity is allowed in the European Union, the US and Australia, and over 30 airlines offer the service. According to industry watchers, the price for in-flight connectivity in India could be much lower than in other markets. Globally, charges range from $9.99 for data packs of 150 MB to $15.99 for 500 MB.

Most of the telecom operators Business Standard spoke to said they were waiting for the final guidelines before taking any decision on providing such services.

The government is not likely to intervene in the pricing as in the case of mobile tariffs. According to sources, the demand for allowing in-flight connectivity in India came from satellite telecommunications service providers, which are already offering such services in other regions. With the government giving them the go-ahead, they will form alliances with airlines and mobile operators to launch services in Indian airspace.

Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest mobile operator, has already joined the global Seamless Alliance to provide in-flight connectivity. Alliance members can provide automatic login and authentication to their customers on various devices. Airtel, OneWeb, Airbus, Delta and Sprint are the founding members of the alliance.

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