The government has paved the way for passengers of air travel and sea voyage to use internet and make calls with their mobile phones in Indian airspace by notifying the Indian Flight and Maritime Connectivity Rules (IFMC), 2018.
In a notification the government said Indian and foreign airlines and shipping companies operating in the country can provide in-flight and maritime voice and data services in partnership with a valid Indian telecom licence holder.
The services will be activated once the aircraft attains a minimum height of 3,000 metres in Indian airspace to avoid interference with terrestrial mobile networks, the rules state. The IFMC licences will be granted against an annual fee of Re 1 for a period of 10 years and the permit holder will have to pay licence fees and spectrum charges based on revenue earned from providing services.
However, airlines, shipping companies and service providers will decide how much they want to charge the customer. It is also up to them whether they want to offer both internet and calling services or limit themselves to Wi-Fi services only. Most airlines globally offer only Wi-Fi on board as allowing mobile calls could be too much of a nuisance for fellow travellers.
The notification said the rules will come into effect on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette. The development helps India, one of the fastest growing aviation markets and the second largest smartphone market, join a long list of countries like the US, UK, Canada and China that have been offering the services for a couple of years now.
American in-flight internet services provider Gogo has already committed to enter India by setting up a functional centre in Chennai. The notification said IFMC can be provided using telecom networks on ground as well as using satellites.