In 2016, the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced that in-flight WiFi in India would be available soon. Eventually, in 2018, the telecom regulator TRAI gave the green signal for in-flight WiFi. Subsequently, the Department of Telecom notified the final rules for in-flight connectivity. So the next step would have been for telecom providers to apply for a license and receive one via a local Indian entity so that data would run through Indian servers while in India. Various alliances were in the works, and multiple airlines made the appropriate noises about signing up for in-flight WiFi, including Air India. Then the pandemic hit, and all of it was put in the cold-freeze, I assume, apart from Vistara, which launched WiFi on its international flights operated by the 787 and the A321neo in September 2020.
Inmarsat ties up with BSNL.
Now Inmarsat, one of the global leaders in satellite communications, has confirmed that its strategic partner in India, BSNL, has received the necessary licenses to deliver Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) mobile broadband services in India. Under BSNL’s Inflight and Maritime Connectivity (IFMC) licence from the Department of Telecommunications, GX will be available to Indian customers across government, aviation and maritime.
The announcement means that India’s airlines will be able to deploy GX for in-flight connectivity within India and throughout the world, while India’s commercial maritime companies will be able to enhance the digitalisation of their vessels significantly for more effective ship operations and crew welfare services. BSNL’s license will also enable the GX service offered to the government and other users. There will be a phased introduction of services for customers and partners.
GX, operating in the Ka-band, is designed to span the world seamlessly. Here is an overview of the coverage of GX across the globe right now.
Over the coming three years, the company is launching a further seven GX satellites, including its next-generation GX satellites, each of which will add more capacity into a single region than the first four satellites combined. The GX gateway for India is located in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.
SpiceJet plans to go live with Inmarsat.
When SpiceJet went for the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, they opted for a factory-fitted in-flight connectivity system for their 737 MAX aircraft. As the 737 MAX grounding gets lifted, SpiceJet has spoken again about introducing WiFi onboard their aircraft.
On occasion, Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of SpiceJet Ltd., said,
We are delighted that Global Xpress, the world-leading passenger inflight connectivity service, is now coming to India. We are looking forward to offering this ground-breaking connectivity service to our passengers later this year, when we introduce our new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. It will enable our customers to remain connected in the air as they do on the ground.
Very soon, the dark patch when flying over India will be over, as Inmarsat customers, such as Qatar Airways and others, will now be able to offer inflight WiFi over India as well, with BSNL becoming the local partner and receiving requisite permissions. SpiceJet, which has outfitted its 737 MAX aircraft for in-flight connectivity, expects to launch the service soon.
What do you make of the big global player Inmarsat coming in with its inflight services in India?
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