Flying over India, you won’t have to switch off your wifi again. Flyers will soon be able to avail data and voice services during flights, while in Indian airspace. The Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body for Indian telecom, approved the move to provide inflight wifi in India today.
The move, which has been coming since 2016, hasn’t really moved at the speed we were made to believe it would. Jet Airways first made a feasibility study for this back in 2016. Air India wants to provide wifi free of cost on their planes, they said last year.
The Indian Government is now going to work out the licenses for service providers who can provide in-flight Internet connectivity. Once these come into place, Indian and foreign airlines will be able to offer services to passengers over Indian airspace.
It is expected that over the next 3-4 months, the ability to make calls and surf the internet at cruise altitude (3000 meters) will go live. While the airlines have been given permission towards calls as well as internet connectivity, I hope airlines use their better judgement and restrict the initial usage towards internet browsing only, and block VoIP while they are at it.
Jet Airways already has in-flight IFE on their planes via JetScreen, which is powered by Global Eagle. They just need to add a radome on top to make sure internet is enabled on those planes as well. SpiceJet is already committing to wifi as well, and they have already made announcements of a tie-up with Lufthansa Technik in the past for this.
What remains to be seen is the choice of technology in this case. As a customer, I’d like technology which is satellite-based and gives me high speeds, rather than cellular towers based, which is slower.
Personally, I am not optimistic this is going to work anywhere before the end of this year, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong. What remains to be seen is the way people agree to pay for this service, and also how they behave, if they got telephone calls in the air. Emirates has been offering this for years, but of course, it is priced pretty steep, so only when you really need to use it, do you go for it.