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DoT, aviation ministry to meet next week on in-flight connectivity rules

Officials of the telecom department and aviation ministry will meet next week to chart out the framework and guidelines for operationalising ‘in-flight’ data and voice connectivity, a top DoT official said.

Telecom Commission – the highest policy making body of Department of Telecom (DoT) – on May 1 cleared a proposal for allowing wider in-flight connectivity that is now available in most of the developed markets. The decision will pave the way for travellers to use internet and voice services on mobile phone during flights in the Indian airspace.

“We plan to hold a meeting coming Monday (May 14) or Tuesday (May 15) with officials of Civil Aviation Ministry on this,” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said on the sidelines of CII Broadband Summit.

Telecom operators may or may not be part of the upcoming meeting which will look at evolving a framework for in-flight connectivity, she added. Earlier, Sundararajan had expressed hope that the facility will be rolled out in 3-4 months, once the modalities of the niche licences and back-end agreements are worked out.

Major airlines, including Air India and Vistara, have welcomed the government’s decision, and Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has said he will ensure “earliest implementation” of the proposal.

While mobile phone use will still be restricted during takeoff and landing, Telecom Commission has approved the lifting of a ban on the use mobile phone and internet services at cruising altitudes. Globally, many airlines are already offering wi-fi for passengers, but they currently have to switch off the facility when they enter the Indian airspace.

AirAsia, Air France, British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic are among 30 airlines that are already allowing mobile phone use on aircraft.

A separate category of licences – in-flight service providers – will be created for offering such services, and licence fee for such niche providers will be pegged at Re 1.

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