20 Jan 2018 12:42 IST

The person you are trying to contact is flying, and available

TRAI for in-flight phone, web access, ₹1 licence fee for IFC service providers

That familiar routine on domestic flights when you would, immediately after seating yourself, reach out for your phone to switch to ‘flight mode’, or even turn the gadget off, could soon be the stuff of the past.

Telecom regulator TRAI has recommended that both telephony and internet services be permitted on domestic flights — a practice already allowed on aircraft flying international.

The Civil Aviation Ministry has been keen to provide the facility to air travellers. In 2016, Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey had also announced that in-flight Wi-Fi services would be extended to passengers. However, the ministry had put the matter on hold, given national security concerns and because it involved the department of telecommunications (DoT), which had sought TRAI’s views.

In its recommendations, TRAI states: “The authority recommends that both, Internet and mobile communication on aircraft service be permitted as In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) in the Indian airspace.”

IFC service providers should be allowed flexibility in technology use and frequencies that are consistent with international standards, and cause no harmful interference, the recommendations say. “The operation of MCA [Mobile Communication on Aircraft] services should be permitted with minimum height restriction of 3,000 m in the Indian airspace for its compatibility with terrestrial mobile networks.”

TRAI said on-board Wi-Fi services should be made available only when electronic devices are permitted to be used in-flight, or on airplane mode. An announcement in this regard should be made after boarding is complete and the aircraft is about to taxi.

“It would ensure that there is no encroachment on the scope of terrestrial Internet service provided by telecom service providers,” the TRAI recommendations say.

It recommended creating an IFC Service Provider for IFC services at an initial annual licence fee of ₹1, after entering into an arrangement with telecom licence holder having appropriate authorisation. The regulator also said the IFC service provider should be permitted to use either INSAT systems or foreign satellites outside INSAT systems in the Indian airspace.

Routing traffic through satellite gateway in India should also be imposed regardless of whether the satellite in question is an Indian system or not, TRAI added.

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