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High bandwidth charges a spoiler for in-flight mobile services: Hughes India

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High satellite bandwidth charges are likely to play a spoiler in the uptake of in-flight mobile services in India as these would make the facility costlier by 30-50 times at Rs 700-1,000 for a two-hour journey, said an industry official.

The chief technology officer of broadband technology firm Hughes India, K Krishna, told agencies that satellite bandwidth charges in India are 7-8 times higher compared to other parts of the world due to the condition that bandwidth can be procured from Indian Space Research Organisation only.

“Passengers are not going to pay 50 times higher price for Internet on a two-hour flight. It has to be extremely affordable and for that to happen open sky mechanism is very much required. You can’t be restrictive that only Indian satellite need to provide capacity. Monopolistic policy won’t work. The policy will become a duck if these issues are not addressed,” Krishna said.

Hughes has applied for a licence for in-flight and maritime connectivity that will allow access to mobile services during air travel and ship voyage within Indian air space and territorial waters.

He said that there is adequate satellite capacity available at very affordable cost for in-flight and maritime mobile services to work.

“The bandwidth will make 70-80 per cent cost of service. At present rates, current tariff will be in the range of Rs 700-1,000 which lot of people are not going to afford if they compare it with routine mobile plans,” Krishna said.

“Indian vessels going outside Indian border should also be provided service by an Indian service provider. Otherwise we are letting service providers from other countries exploit it. None of other country surrounding India has restriction of 12 nautical miles like we have,” Krishna said.

The company expects to get a licence for the service early next month and has started discussion to start service in some of the aircraft, he said.

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