In-flight WiFi

Telecom Commission has given approval for offering in-flight connectivity within Indian airspace. The decision would enable flyers to avail data and voice services during flights over Indian airspace and the government will now work towards creating the license framework for a special category of service providers called ‘In-flight connectivity provider.

What is the technology by which Internet will be provided on flights?
In-flight connectivity systems primarily use two kinds of technologies. Firstly, an onboard antenna picks up signals from the nearest tower on the ground, just like picked by a moving car. Unless the aircraft passes over an area with no towers, the connection will remain up to a certain altitude.

In case the aircraft is flying over an area with no towers or at a high altitude, satellites are used to provide internet signals; similar to the way satellite TV signals are transmitted. The data is transmitted to a personal electronic device through an onboard router, which connects to the plane’s antenna.

What are the challenges in providing in flight WiFi?
1. Airlines will have to bear the initial cost of installing antennae on aircraft. Airlines will ultimately extract this cost from customers either by raising ticket prices or buy charging for use of internet.
2. The high cost of installing equipment may discourage some airlines especially low-cost carriers.
3. Apart from the equipment cost, airlines will have to bear additional fuel costs, given the extra weight and drag aircraft will face due to the antenna.
4. It is expected that foreign airlines that service Indian airports or use Indian airspace will offer in-flight connectivity before domestic carriers.
5. In general, WiFi on a plane is much slower than on the ground.



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