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Mobile calls, internet on flights may start next month

New Delhi: Air passengers may be allowed to make mobile calls and surf the internet during flights in the Indian airspace, possibly from next month, once the law ministry gives its views and approval to the proposal, telecom minister Manoj Sinha said on Wednesday. The telecom ministry is awaiting the views of the law ministry on in-flight connectivity rules and is hopeful of notifying the norms soon thereafter, Sinha said.

“We have sought the permission of law ministry, once that comes through… I believe that it will come in a week or 10 days…then we can start it,” Sinha told reporters. Asked if the ministry expects to notify the rules at the beginning of the New Year, the minister said he is hopeful of doing so.

On May 1, the Telecom Commission — the highest policy-making body of the Department of Telecom — had cleared a proposal for allowing wider in-flight connectivity that is now available in most of the developed markets.

Asked whether the coverage should extend to territorial waters or exclusive economic zones (EEZ), a senior DoT official said the communications ministry is of the view that international best practices should be followed. Territorial waters extend up to 12 nautical miles (around 22 km) from coastal line of the country, while EEZ covers up to 200 nautical miles. “We have said…and the notification hopefully will say that we are aligned on international law on this, which is synced with EEZ. We are trying to fine tune the language,” the official said.

The government has, in the past, said that it is committed to ensuring the earliest implementation of the in-flight connectivity framework. Full-service carriers, including Air India and Vistara, have welcomed the decision on permitting in-flight connectivity.

A separate category of licensees — in-flight service providers — will be created for offering such services, and licence fee for such niche providers will be pegged at Rs 1.

On the successful launch of India’s heaviest satellite GSAT-11 from French Guiana, Sinha said that the move would provide a big boost to data connectivity, especially in the north eastern and hilly states.