Telecom Ministry plans inflight connectivity by early 2019


(Online Tech Desk)

Domestic air travellers might at last be able to get the long-anticipated in-flight connectivity. The proposal is likely to come through by early next year. Telecom minister Manoj Sinha on Wednesday said the Telecom Ministry is currently awaiting views of the Law Ministry on in-flight connectivity rules and is hopeful of notifying the norms as soon as it comes.

“We have sought permission of the Law Ministry, once that comes through… I believe that it will come in a week or 10 days… then we can start it,” Sinha said. When asked if the ministry expects to notify the rules by the start of the New Year, the minister said that he is hopeful that will be the case.​

The Telecom Commission had on May 1 cleared a proposal that allowed making calls and surfing Internet during flight journey in the Indian airspace. The ministry had wanted to implement the services by September-October this year, but it got delayed for want of permission from multiple ministries.

The in-flight connectivity norms will also cover maritime transport. On the issue of whether the coverage should extend to territorial waters or Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a senior official aware of the ongoing discussions said that the Communications Ministry is of the view that the international best practices should be followed.

Territorial waters extend up to 12 nautical miles (around 22 kilometres) from the country’s coastal line, while EEZ covers up to 200 nautical miles. A senior telecom operator official had earlier said that while they welcome the move, they would require every minute detail of the programme before offering services. Major airlines, including Air India and Vistara, have welcomed the government’s decision on permitting the in-flight connectivity.

GSAT-11 launch: The successful launch of India’s heaviest satellite GSAT-11 on Wednesday would provide a boost to data connectivity, Sinha said.