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Data services may soon be allowed on domestic flights

New Delhi:Flyers will soon be able to avail data services during flights with the Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body at the department of telecommunications (DoT), set to approve the much-awaited proposal at its next meeting scheduled on May 1, a person aware of the matter said, requesting anonymity.

“We have taken approvals from all (including ministry of home affairs)… we will initially allow data services but slowly get into voice services also,” the person said.

As soon as DoT approves the plan, airlines would be free to offer internet services to passengers. Moreover, the pricing would be left to airlines, the person said, adding that the DoT would sign a licence contract with the particular provider, similar to what it has with telecom and internet service providers.

The DoT had in August asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to furnish its recommendations on licensing terms and provision of in-flight connectivity for voice, data and video services and associated issues related to entry fee, licence fee and spectrum.

Currently, telecom service providers pay 3-6% and 8% of their adjusted gross revenue as spectrum usage charges and licence fee to the DoT, respectively.

Following this, Trai floated a consultation paper in September and in January sent its recommendations to the DoT suggesting creation of an in-flight connectivity (IFC) service provider for IFC services at an annual licence fee of only Rs 1 initially, after entering into an arrangement with telecom licence holders with the appropriate authorization.

These IFC providers, Trai suggested, should be permitted to use either INSAT (Indian Satellite System, or foreign satellite capacity leased through the department of space) or foreign satellites outside INSAT systems in Indian airspace.