Telecom Commission Lives Nod For Internet, Calls In-Flight

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New Delhi: Flyers will be able to make calls and surf the internet in their aircraft flying over Indian airspace in the next three to four months, a senior official at the Department of Telecommunications said. The Telecom Commission on Tuesday approved the DoT’s proposal for both internet and mobile communication on aircraft.

As per the recommendations by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the in-flight connectivity will be available once the aircraft has achieved an altitude of 3,000 meters. This restriction is being imposed to maintain compatibility with terrestrial networks. A flight generally attains the altitude of 3,000 metres about four-five minutes after take-off.

“The DoT will now make the necessary amendments to the relevant laws to create a separate category of licences for in-flight connectivity operators, which could be telecom service providers. After making the amendments, the delay will invite applications from those interested in providing these services,” the official said.In line with the regulator’s recommendations, to promote the concept of in-flight connectivity, these service providers should be charged a nominal licence fee of Re 1 per annum, the official said. However, the government will not intervene with the pricing mechanisms used by the operators for providing in-flight connectivity. Globally, the internet services available on board aircraft are charged at a premium over what is available otherwise.

Apart from accepting the proposal for in-flight connectivity, the inter-ministerial Telecom Commission also granted its nod for creation of a telecom ombudsman to deal with consumer complaints. “There is a grievance redressal mechanism inside the DoT, which receives over 10 million consumer complaints every quarter. TRAI had asked for additional powers to be able to set up an ombudsman, and the Commission has approved its proposal.

Now the TRAI Act will be amended to this effect and the regulator will take a call on the mechanism of how the ombudsman will function and how many such ombudsman will be needed across the country,” the official said. Whether the ombudsman will have penal powers over the telecom operators is a call that will be taken by the sectoral watchdog.

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