In-flight passengers may now get access to the internet via Wi-Fi facilities inside aircrafts. The Department of Telecommunication has just passed recommendations which could legalise internet in the air. This process did not come into being overnight. It had been part of an ongoing debate for the past 1 year.
The decision that was approved by the DoT has granted access to both voice and data calls in the Indian airspace. The DoT has stated that once the airplane is at a height of 3,000 meters above sea level in the Indian airspace, passengers will be able to connect to terrestrial networks. As per various reports, this height can be obtained after 5 minutes from taking off.
How Does it Work?
The concept of in-flight Wi-Fi is however not new. Many of the international airlines offer Wi-Fi on board and the concept has been growing steadily across all countries. The basic principle for in-flight Wi-Fi remains the same.
What happens is that the base stations present on the ground communicate with all the antennas which have been positioned strategically under the plane. This enables Wi-Fi stations on board (this is under 10,000 feet altitude). However, don’t be too overjoyed as the process doesn’t really bode well for high-speed internet as an aeroplane is flying at incredibly high speeds.
Internet on the flight will be generally slower as it is shared for the entire flight. The point here is that speeds can also vary from seat to seat. The primary advantage of an onboard Wi-Fi system is for you to check emails or text with your associates. What you can’t do is stream and binge something like a Netflix series on a Trans-Atlantic flight.
Also, for internet in the air to be a success there have to be a large number of towers and seamless handover to maintain a fast connection.
Another big factor to keep in mind is that in-flight internet services are also quite expensive. When considering some airlines which are offering it for free then we have to understand that it is only for certain customers or on certain routes in certain geographical areas, where the provider might have their towers.
As of right now, there is still no clarity on what exactly will the telecom service providers will have to pay separately for obtaining a separate licensing fee so as to provide in-flight Wi-Fi. There is also the possibility that India will come in partnership with some foreign players to provide internet services in flight.
There is also one another point to notice which is that placing antennas on the plane also gives additional design changes on the design of the aircraft which increases air drag as these antennas are attached externally to the plane.