Exciting times ahead in the Indian skies, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said in a tweet as the Telecom Commission on Tuesday approved data and voice services in flights over Indian airspace.
"Exciting times ahead in the Indian skies as Telecom Commission approves data and voice services in flights over Indian airspace!" Prabhu tweeted.
The Telecom Commission on Tuesday cleared a proposal that is expected to be implemented in the next three-four months. When implemented, air travellers will be able to make mobile phone calls and avail internet services during flights in the Indian airspace.
"We remain committed to improving the services to our air passengers, making their travel delightful and hassle-free," Prabhu added.
The facility is expected to be rolled out in three-four months, once the modalities of these niche licences and back-end agreements are worked out, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters after the two-hour meeting of the Telecom Commission in New Delhi.
The Telecom Ministry has also approved use of such services on ships.
At present, fliers in Indian airspace are not allowed to use mobile phones and internet.
Sundararajan said that the Telecom Commission has largely agreed to the telecom regulator Trai's recommendations on 'in-flight connectivity' (IFC) -- provision of internet and mobile services during air travel -- with exception to one aspect pertaining to foreign satellites and gateways.
"Trai had said that foreign satellites and foreign gateways should also be permitted...but there had been an earlier Committee of Secretaries meeting which decided that it should be an Indian satellite or Department of Space approved satellite and the gateway should be in India. So, the proposal is cleared subject to this...all the other recommendations of Trai have been accepted," said Sundararajan, who also chairs the Telecom Commission.
The decision of the Telecom Commission will be operationalised "immediately", she added.
"We will have to create a separate category of licensees for providing such services...it will also provide for connectivity on ships in Indian territorial waters," she said, adding that the licence fee for such IFC providers will be pegged at Re 1.
In January, Trai had recommended to the government that in-flight mobile calls and internet services can be allowed, using satellite and terrestrial network but after providing a mechanism for lawful interception and monitoring of wi-fi in aircraft cabins to ensure safety.
The regulator had recommended the creation of an 'In-Flight Connectivity' (IFC) Service Provider at annual licence fee of Re 1 only initially, after entering into an arrangement with telecom licence holder having appropriate authorisation.
Trai had said that the operation of MCA (mobile communication on aircraft) services should be permitted with minimum height restriction of 3,000 metres in Indian airspace for its compatibility with terrestrial mobile networks.
It has also suggested that the Internet services through wi-fi onboard be made available when electronic devices are permitted to be used only in-flight or airplane mode and announcement regarding this should be made after boarding is completed and the aircraft is about to taxi.
However, the regulator had recommended that the IFC service provider should be permitted to use either INSAT systems (Indian Satellite System or foreign satellite capacity leased through Department of Space) or foreign satellites outside INSAT systems in the Indian airspace.
Trai recommendations came after the Telecom Department on August 10, 2017 sought its views over proposal to introduce voice, data and video services over Indian airspace for domestic, international and overflying flights in Indian air space.
The Telecom Commission - which met here today - also approved several other proposals ranging from internet telephony to creation of sector ombudsman and from ease of doing business to proliferation of broadband through public wi-fi.