The government has recently permitted airlines operating in India to provide in-flight WiFi services to passengers.
More about the news:
- Earlier in 2018, the Telecom Commission had allowed in-flight connectivity of the Internet and mobile communications on aircraft.
- In the new in-flight WiFi service, the pilot may permit the access of Internet services by passengers on board, through Wi-Fi on board, when a laptop, smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, e-reader or a point of sale device is used in flight mode or airplane mode.
- It uses signals from ground stations and also uses satellite connectivity.
- This way, there will be no break in Internet services to passengers, and cross-interference between terrestrial and satellite networks will be avoided.
In-flight WiFi connectivity systems use two kinds of technologies.
- Picking up signals from the nearest tower on the ground: Once flight mode is activated in the air time, the plane’s antenna will link to terrestrial Internet services provided by telecom service providers.
- Unless the aircraft flying over a large space with no towers (such as a water body), the connection will remain seamless up to a certain altitude.
- Use of satellite connectivity: When the aircraft has reached a height of 3,000 m (normally 4-5 minutes after take-off), the antenna will switch to satellite-based services. Satellites can be used to connect to ground stations in the same way that satellite TV signals are transmitted.
- Data transmission is done to a personal electronic device through an onboard router, which connects to the plane’s antenna.
- Plane’s antenna transmits the signals, through satellites, to a ground station, which redirects the traffic to a billing server that calculates the data consumption.
- It is then relayed to the intercepting servers, and to the World Wide Web.
Financial cost associated
- Initial Costs:
- The initial cost of installing antennae on aircraft is to be borne by the airlines.
- Some airlines have said it would be easier to have the equipment installed on their new aircraft rather than taking planes out of service for retrofitting.
- Additional Costs:
- Apart from the expenses on the equipment needed, airlines will have to bear additional fuel costs, given the extra weight and drag aircraft will face due to the antenna.
- Globally, some airlines offering onboard WiFi offer a small volume of the free Internet before asking the customer to buy a pack.
- Price plans may be volume-based or volume- and time-based.
- Some others provide limited or unlimited Internet in Business and First class.
- Probable increment in the ticket prices: The additional cost could find a way into ticket prices.
- Speed of the internet connection: In general, WiFi on a plane is slower than on the ground even though this is changing with newer technologies.
- The reluctance of the airlines: Technology and laws allow calls to be made from aircraft, but many airlines do not want noisy cabins.
JV’s Prelims Snippets
About Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
- It is an attached office of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
- The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is the regulatory body in the field of Civil Aviation primarily dealing with safety issues.
- It is responsible for the regulation of air transport services to/from/within India and for enforcement of civil air regulations, air safety, and airworthiness standards.
- It also coordinates all regulatory functions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
- The headquarters are located in New Delhi with regional offices in various parts of India.