Low-fare carriers expect to become among the first to offer IFC on Indian domestic services. (Photo: Neelam Mathews)
After years of deliberation, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has decided to allow internet and mobile communication on aircraft (MCA) for in-flight connectivity (IFC) in Indian airspace through both satellite and terrestrial networks. India remained one of the few countries left in the world that did not permit IFC. While the implementation could take around six months, domestic carriers may now introduce voice, data, and video in flight. International carriers and overflying flights required to shut down their systems on entry into Indian airspace will now no longer have to do so.
IFC represents another source of ancillary revenue for domestic carriers, though the structure and costs for charging passengers remain under discussion. Airlines can, as a result, facilitate better customer relationship management and more business value. Meanwhile, real-time passenger connectivity enables carriers to provide targeted marketing.
With the regulatory policy announced, Air India has begun evaluating systems for its long-haul Boeing 777 flights, H.R. Jagannath, CEO of Air India Engineering Service, told AIN. Jet Airways and budget airline SpiceJet would likely become the first to introduce IFC with deliveries of their Boeing 737 MAX narrowbodies starting in the third quarter.
“We estimate around 25,000 planes [worldwide] will be equipped with Wi-Fi by 2025," said Honeywell India president Neelu Khatri last year, as the company showcased its new technologies including JetWave Wi-Fi on board its ‘Connected’ aircraft. “Every airline in India is communicating at a deep level with us,” added Inmarsat director airline market development for India and Africa Rash Jhanjee. Inmarsat serves as Honeywell’s partner and global mobile satellite communications provider.
The TRAI framework recommended for IFC services in Indian airspace applies to all types of aircraft, including commercial airliners and general aviation at a minimum height of 3,000 meters. It envisions creation of a separate category of IFC service provider in Indian airspace that need not be an Indian entity.