Use Netflix, Whatsapp At 35,000 Feet Inside Aircraft: Vistara & Other Airlines Will Offer Inflight WiFi!
After the approval from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) last year, in-flight connectivity on Indian airlines, Vistara could soon be a reality as it gears up to launch its broadband service by March-end. As of now, only data services will be offered and voice calls could be introduced later.
The service offered by Vistara, launched in partnership with Tata group firm Nelco and Panasonic Avionics Corporation, will be offered on its Dreamliners and Airbus 321 planes.
How can you benefit from this?
In-flight connectivity basically allows those onboard aircraft to access voice, video and data services after the aircraft has attained an altitude of 3,000 meters. In-flight connectivity for aircraft flying over the Indian airspace was approved by the DoT in May 2018.
Passengers onboard the above mentioned Vistara flights will be able to use data to make WhatsApp calls, send messages on Facebook, and read email.
Given the experience in other countries, streaming video might not be easy as speeds won’t be all that great. “Nelco is the first Indian company to provide this service in the country, marking the beginning of a new era of wi-fi on aircraft in Indian skies,” a press release said.
While the telecom commission has allowed Internet services onboard, the telecom operator has said it will be made available when devices are used only on flight mode. Internet services, hence, could only be used through onboard WiFi as of now.
Increase in Air Fares?
On a global scale, given the high cost of satellite connectivity, the internet services available onboard aircraft are charged over what is available otherwise.
As per DoT, the airlines are at liberty to decide the tariff of the in-flight connectivity service.
The telecom secretary Anshu Prakash had earlier told The Indian Express, “I suppose this will be kind of an add-on service which the airline will offer. Whether they will charge or not is their decision.”
The airline company will have to bear high costs of installing equipment, including the installation of antennae on aircraft. The additional cost could find a way into ticket prices or as an add-on service which will be available to passengers who pay for it. Airlines will also have to bear additional fuel costs, given the extra weight of the antenna.
For customers, Internet access in the air might come at a massive price. Singapore Airlines offers free data up to 100 MB in First and Business class on its India-bound flights, while Emirates offers 20 MB of free data to passengers, beyond which it charges up to Rs 666 for 150 MB andRs 1,067 for 500 MB
No Mobile Communication on Airlines in the Near Future!
Even as the process to streamline broadband services onboard flights has been initiated, mobile communication on airlines (MCA) might still take time to be a reality. However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended that both broadband and MCA should be allowed over Indian airspace.
There are many issues over providing MCA to passengers citing a complex regulatory framework such as interference, roaming, and spectrum use. Also, with in-flight broadband connectivity allowing messaging services and voice calling, there is little requirement to speed up MCA.
Which Airlines Provide In-flight Connectivity Globally?
No Indian airline apart from Vistara has signed up for this in-flight service.
The in-flight connectivity service is offered by a host of airlines worldwide including, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad, Finnair, British Airways, Nok Air, Oman Air, Philippine Airlines, US Airways, Virgin America, and more. While the provision of onboard WiFi is also available, not many airlines allow mobile communication.
Over 30 airlines allow the use of mobile phones on aircraft, including AirAsia, Air France, British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic.