Inmarsat-BSNL and Airtel get closer to provide in-flight WiFi

Inflight wifi has taken a lot of time to mark its foray into the Indian aviation sector. International carriers have to switch off wifi when they enter Indian airspace since regulations don’t permit for anyone to be connected flying over India.

In 2016, the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced that in-flight WiFi in India would be available in a matter of weeks. Eventually, early this year, the telecom regulator TRAI, gave the green signal for in-flight WiFi. In December 2018, the Department of Telecom notified the final rules for in-flight connectivity paving way for telecom operators to apply for a license.

In January 2019, BSNL, Hughes and Tata Telenet applied with the DoT (Department of Telecommunications) for a license to provide in-flight connectivity. Airtel and Reliance Jio also expressed interest to provide in-flight connectivity.

BSNL has tied up with Inmarsat to provide inflight-connectivity in India. They are the first to get an inflight and maritime connectivity service provider (IFMC) license. BSNL is now approved to offer these services, including Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (Ka-band) and SwiftBroadband and FleetBroadband (L-band) services.

BSNL will offer these service to Indian airlines operating within and outside India, as well as foreign airlines transiting through Indian airspace and shipping companies operating within Indian waters. BSNL-Inmarsat expects the services to start by the end of 2019, once ground infrastructure and necessary approvals are in place. Currently, airlines like Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways offer Inmarsat’s GX Aviation.

SpiceJet’s Boeing 737 MAX already has factory fitted Inmarsat GX Aviation and are planning to launch free WiFi. So SpiceJet maybe BSNL’s first Indian customer. But SpiceJet’s 737 MAX are grounded for now.

inflight WiFi

SpiceJet 737 MAX

Airtel’s subsidiary, Indo Teleports Limited (ITL) has also secured an IFMC license. Bharti-Airtel has not announced a tie-up yet like BSNL-Inmarsat. But in February 2018, Bharti Airtel formed an alliance, Seamless Alliance with OneWeb (Softbank-backed satellite start-up), Airbus, Delta, GoGo and Sprint to offer in-flight connectivity. We know that GoGo set up shop in India in January 2018.

Foreign airlines won’t have to switch off WiFi once they enter India when they get the approvals from the Indian government soon.

When do you think we will finally get to use in-flight connectivity in India?

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