Science & Tech
Topic: General Studies 3:
- Science & Technology – developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
- Awareness in the fields of IT
Domestic aircraft carrier Vistara will be the first to offer inflight Wi-Fi by March-end. As of now, only data services will be offered and voice calls could be introduced later
What is in-flight connectivity?
- In-flight connectivity essentially allows those onboard aircraft to access voice, video and data services after the aircraft has attained an altitude of 3,000 meters.
- In-flight connectivity for aircraft flying over Indian airspace was approved by the DoT in May 2018.
How does in-flight connectivity work?
- It relies on onboard antenna as well as satellites for Internet and mobile communications.
- Onboard Antenna
- Here, signals are picked from the nearest tower on the ground.
- However, the connection does become an issue after a certain altitude if the aircraft is passing over an area with no towers, say a large water body.
- Through Satellite
- It works in a manner similar to how satellite TV signals are transmitted.
- So, an onboard router, which connects to the plane’s antenna transmits data to a personal electronic device.
- The signals are then transmitted to ground station via satellites and is redirected to a billing server for calculation of the data consumption.
- Finally, the signal is relayed to the World Wide Web.
- While the telecom commission has allowed Internet services onboard, the telecom operator has said it will be made available when devices are used only on flight mode.
- Internet services, hence, could only be used through onboard WiFi as of now.
Cost of in-flight connectivity
- The airlines are free to decide the tariff, as the DoT has not regulated that aspect
- Globally, given the high cost of satellite connectivity, the internet services available onboard aircraft are charged at a premium over what is available otherwise
- The airlines will have to incur high cost of installing equipment, including the installation of antennae on aircraft, increased fuel cost due to extra weight- all these additional cost could find a way into ticket prices.
What about mobile communication Services?
- Even as the process to streamline broadband services onboard flights has been initiated, mobile communication on airlines (MCA) might still take time to be a reality.
- The TRAI, had, however, recommended that both broadband and MCA should be allowed over Indian airspace.
- Several stakeholders had raised concerns over providing MCA to passengers citing a complex regulatory framework with issues such as interference, roaming, and spectrum use.
- Also, with in-flight broadband connectivity allowing messaging services and voice calling, there is little requirement to speed up MCA
However, some of the challenges with regard to inflight connectivity includes
- Relatively slow speeds of Internet
- Security risks due to possible interference with flight communication systems.
- Expensive service which may increase the flight ticket price