Mobile InternetTechnology

Indian airspace open for in-flight Wi-Fi, HCIL grabs the license as service provider

Inside view of an Airplane

In-flight entertainment systems can be a bummer most of the times. They are not up to date or they have absolutely nothing to offer. There is a huge possibility of the entertainment system to even be broken. The in-flight systems in domestic flights are even worse, for shorter flights, there is no such system available. A huge bummer. However, there is something which is missing when you are on a flight and that is the internet. Most of the flights do not support in-flight Wi-Fi. There is a reason for that and that is most of the governments haven’t approved it.

That said, the in-flight Wi-Fi is going to hit the Indian domestic flights sooner than later. The feature will be coming and people can be relieved. Hughes Communications India Ltd (HCIL) is a subsidiary of Hughes Network Systems which is an international company and is an expert in offering such services. The company has been granted a license of providing in-flight services from the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).

This will allow the HCIL to work its way up starting from all the domestic flights. The company has already set up its base mobility platform and is furthering the discussions to enable and enhance the same in the Indian airspace. The license has been granted to the company for 10 years and it will pay according to the revenue it will generate.

The technicality of this technology is not that hard to understand. The signal in the airlines will come from the nearest antenna on the ground or from the satellite in space. The devices of the users on the airplane will be connected to the router which will fetch the signal from the antenna or satellite. The users’ usage will then be calculated when the signals are transferred to the ground stations via satellite. These ground stations will then redirect the same traffic to a billing server which can give an exact number on the usage or the burning of the data.

This is how the technology will work. This technology would have been available a long time ago but the government was waiting for the domestic airlines to catch up with it. TRAI, in May of 2018, had recommended the same technology to be included in the flights and the telecommunications department had approved it.

In December of 2018, the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) had drafted rules for internet in flights. This enabled Wi-Fi connections on an aircraft and apart from this calls as well. This rulebook was named as Flight and Maritime Connectivity Rules, 2018. RN Choubey, after the rules were drafted, welcomed companies to apply for a license so that they could provide their services.

TRAI had also made a note that the domestic and international airlines should be offered data and data calls when flying over 3000 meters above.

-Unmesh Phule

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