NEW DELHI: – Millions of travellers will soon get to use internet and voice services on mobile phones during flights in the Indian airspace, as the Telecom Commission today cleared a proposal for allowing wider in-flight connectivity that is now available in most of the developed markets.Major airlines, including Air India and Vistara, today welcomed the Telecom Commission’s decision, with Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu saying he will ensure “earliest implementation” of the proposal. While mobile phone use will still be restricted during takeoff and landing, the Telecom Department’s highest decision-making body has approved the lifting of a ban on the use mobile phones and internet services at cruising altitudes.
Globally, many airlines are already offering wi-fi for passengers, but they currently have to switch off the facility when they enter the Indian airspace. AirAsia, Air France, British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic are amongst 30 airlines that are already allowing mobile phone use on aircraft.

The in-flight connectivity facility is expected to be rolled out in 3-4 months, once the modalities of the niche licences and back-end agreements are worked out, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters after the two-hour meeting of the Telecom Commission here.

Under Indian civil aviation regulations, airlines at present order mobile phones to be turned off to avoid interference with aircraft communication systems. However, use of other electronic devices, such as tablets that do not interfere with flight radio signals, is allowed once aeroplane reach cruising height.

Sundararajan said the Telecom Commission has largely agreed to the telecom regulator Trai’s recommendations on ‘in-flight connectivity’ (IFC) – provision of internet and mobile services during air travel – with exception to one aspect pertaining to foreign satellites and gateways.

“Trai had said that foreign satellites and foreign gateways should also be permitted… But there had been an earlier Committee of Secretaries meeting which decided that it should be an Indian satellite or Department of Space approved satellite and the gateway should be in India. So, the proposal is cleared subject to this… All the other recommendations of Trai have been accepted,” Sundararajan said. – PTI