Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - FC BU­REAU

AIR pas­sen­gers may be al­lowed to make mo­bile calls and surf the in­ter­net dur­ing flights in the In­dian airs­pace, pos­si­bly from next month, once the law min­istry gives its views and ap­proval to the pro­posal, tele­com min­is­ter Manoj Sinha said on Wed­nes­day. The tele­com min­istry is await­ing the views of the law min­istry on in-flight con­nec­tiv­ity rules and is hope­ful of no­ti­fy­ing the norms soon there­after, Sinha said.

“We have sought the per­mis­sion of law min­istry, once that comes through... I be­lieve that it will come in a week or 10 days... then we can start it,” Sinha told re­porters. Asked if the min­istry ex­pects to no­tify the rules at the be­gin­ning of the New Year, the min­is­ter said he is hope­ful of do­ing so.

On May 1, the Tele­com Com­mis­sion — the high­est pol­icy-mak­ing body of the Depart­ment of Tele­com — had cleared a pro­posal for al­low­ing wider in-flight con­nec­tiv­ity that is now avail­able in most of the de­vel­oped mar­kets.

Asked whether the cov­er­age should ex­tend to ter­ri­to­rial waters or ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zones (EEZ), a se­nior DoT of­fi­cial said the com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­istry is of the view that in­ter­na­tional best prac­tices should be fol­lowed. Ter­ri­to­rial waters ex­tend up to 12 nau­ti­cal miles (around 22 km) from coastal line of the coun­try, while EEZ cov­ers up to 200 nau­ti­cal miles. “We have said... and the no­ti­fi­ca­tion hope­fully will say that we are aligned on in­ter­na­tional law on this, which is synced with EEZ. We are try­ing to fine tune the lan­guage,” the of­fi­cial said.

The gov­ern­ment has, in the past, said that it is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing the ear­li­est im­ple­men­ta­tion of the in-flight con­nec­tiv­ity frame­work. Full-ser­vice car­ri­ers, in­clud­ing Air In­dia and Vis­tara, have wel­comed the de­ci­sion on per­mit­ting in-flight con­nec­tiv­ity.

A sep­a­rate cat­e­gory of li­censees — in-flight ser­vice providers — will be cre­ated for of­fer­ing such ser­vices, and li­cence fee for such niche providers will be pegged at Rs 1.

On the suc­cess­ful launch of In­dia’s heav­i­est satel­lite GSAT-11 from French Guiana, Sinha said that the move would pro­vide a big boost to data con­nec­tiv­ity, es­pe­cially in the north eastern and hilly states.

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