Inflight Wi-Fi

  • IASbaba
  • February 20, 2020
  • 0
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Science & Tech

Topic: General Studies 3:

  • Science & Technology – developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • Awareness in the fields of IT

Inflight Wi-Fi


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

Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 20th February 2020

Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 20th February 2020

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.

Onboard Wifi

  • 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

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