Telecom regulator TRAI on Friday recommended allowing mobile phone calls and Internet services like Wi-Fi on domestic and international flights in India.
TRAI recommended to the government that in-flight mobile telephony and Internet services can be allowed, using satellite and terrestrial network but after providing a mechanism for lawful interception and monitoring of Wi-Fi in aircraft cabins to ensure safety.
The recommendation will now go to the telecom ministry for further decision and implementation of the services.
"The authority recommends that both, Internet and Mobile Communication on Aircraft (MCA) service should be permitted as In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) in the Indian airspace," TRAI said in its recommendations on 'In-Flight Connectivity' (IFC).
The Department of Telecom had sought views of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on August 10, 2017, over proposal to introduce voice, data and video services over Indian airspace for domestic, international and overflying flights in Indian airspace.
The regulator said that Internet services through Wi-Fi onboard should be made available when electronic devices are permitted to be used only in-flight or airplane mode and announcement regarding this should be made after boarding is completed and the aircraft is about to taxi.
The regulator recommended creation of an IFC Service Provider for IFC services at annual licence fee of Re. 1 only initially, after entering into an arrangement with telecom licence holder having appropriate authorisation.
The regulator said that the IFC service provider should be permitted to use either INSAT systems (Indian Satellite System or foreign satellite capacity leased through Department of Space) or foreign satellites outside INSAT systems in the Indian airspace.
"The deployment of a gateway in India provides an effective mechanism to lawfully intercept and monitor the in-cabin Internet traffic while the aircraft is in Indian airspace. Therefore, the onboard Internet traffic must be routed to a Satellite Gateway on Indian soil," Trai recommended.
It added that routing of traffic through satellite gateway in India should be imposed regardless of whether the satellite in question is an Indian satellite system or not.
"The operation of MCA services should be permitted with minimum height restriction of 3,000 meters in Indian airspace for its compatibility with terrestrial mobile networks," Trai recommended.
During the consultation rounds held by TRAI, Reliance Jio had proposed that besides satellite connectivity, IFC can be provided using cellular network as well.
International satellite players also expressed willingness to set-up gateway in India if IFC service is allowed.
"We continually review our product offerings and this will be reviewed as part of that process as well," a spokesperson for full-service carrier Vistara said when asked about the TRAI recommendations.
"There will be 1 billion passengers journeys on planes (about a quarter of the total) will be on aircraft equipped with in-flight connectivity (IFC). It will be a wonderful service for the traveller as it will help them to use their time productively and be in touch with their near and dear ones but the downside could be the noise level in flight could be increased," Deloitte India, Partner, Hemant Joshi said.