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Pushing ‘very very hard’ for in flight wi-fi: Aviation Secretary

The Civil Aviation Ministry is pushing “very very” hard to introduce wi-fi facility on board flights, a senior official said amid the proposal hanging fire for a long time. Air passengers would be able to use Internet and even make phone calls from flights once the proposal gets green signal. Worldwide, many airlines are already offering wi-fi for passengers but they have to switch off the facility once they enter the Indian airspace.

While the Ministry has been pitching for the facility, certain issues, including those pertaining to security, have been delaying a final decision on the matter. The Department of Telecommunications has already moved a proposal for providing in-flight connectivity for voice, data as well as video services and the same is before a Committee of Secretaries (CoS).

Without providing any tentative time frame for permitting such a facility on board flights in the Indian airspace, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said the CoS would be meeting shortly to discuss the matter. “In fact, our ministry is pushing it very very hard. Second meeting of the CoS headed by the Cabinet Secretary on the subject will be held shortly,” he told PTI in a recent interview.

One of the key concerns from the security aspect pertains to monitoring data and voice transmission. To permit on board wi-fi services, amendments would be required to provisions of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and Indian Telegraph Rules. Presently, wi-fi services and phone calls are not allowed on flights flying over the Indian airspace.

Wi-fi facility for fliers can be provided either through air-to-ground technology or satellite connectivity and the latter will be expensive. Globally, some airlines are also providing on-board wi-fi services free of cost for a stipulated time and then the passengers are billed depending on their use.

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