Inflight connectivity is slowly taking shape. We have outlined earlier all the things we know about inflight connectivity in India, how airlines are gearing up, the pros and cons and so-on. Now, the telecom operators have started applying for licenses to provide in-flight connectivity.
In 2016, the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced that in-flight WiFi in India would be available in a matter of weeks. Eventually, early last year, the telecom regulator TRAI, gave the green signal for in-flight WiFi. In December 2018, the Department of Telecom notified the final rules for in-flight connectivity and paved the way for telecom providers to apply for a license.
According to Financial Chronicle, BSNL, Hughes and Tata Telenet have already applied with the DoT (Department of Telecommunications) for a license to provide in-flight connectivity. Airtel and Reliance Jio have envisaged interest but are yet to formally apply.
DoT has specified that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will be the sole agency to provide satellite bandwidth for inflight connectivity. ISRO will allocate spectrum for Ku, Ka and L band of radio waves. While the license fee will cost just INR 1, the revenue from in-flight connectivity will be counted as a part of overall revenue of the telecom operator which is currently subject to an 8% license fee.
Since only ISRO is allowed to provide satellite bandwidth, it creates a monopoly. Due to this, the bandwidth costs are going to be much higher than any other countries. This will increase the cost of providing in-flight connectivity and India being a price-sensitive market, airlines will have to weigh the pros and cons.
SpiceJet is ready to provide in-flight connectivity and will provide free Wifi initially. SpiceJet has 10 Boeing 737 Max 8 in its fleet which have factory-fitted in-flight connectivity systems. They are currently waiting to choose a telecom operator. Air India also wanted to provide free wifi for passengers by partnering with BSNL. With BSNL now applying for a license will Air India start the groundwork to install in-flight connectivity equipment? [Ed’s comment: Do they have the money?]
The process to get inflight wifi in India has started. While telecom operators have started applying for license and airlines are gearing up to provide in-flight connectivity, in the end, it comes down to how long will the DoT take to grant the license and give a final go-ahead for the launch. On the telecoms front, BSNL, Hughes and Tata Telenet have taken the lead and on the airlines front, SpiceJet and international airlines are in the lead. Others may follow suit.
When do you think In-Flight Connectivity will actually start? Are you excited for in-flight WiFi in India?