Vistara Airlines, a joint venture of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, is set to become the first domestic airline to offer in-flight communication services as it plans to offer internet connectivity on Boeing B787 aircraft by March-April. The airline will also offer in-flight wi-fi connectivity on A321 aircraft as well.

“All the newly inducted A321 and B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft will come with the necessary equipment for introducing in-flight connectivity services. By 2021, we will have 10 aircraft with in-flight connectivity service,” 

With the launch of WiFi services, the company said it will help the domestic as well as international aircraft to avail the broadband internet services and provide it to its passengers. Not only this but services are expected to give airlines an opportunity to enhance the travelling experience, open additional revenue streams, improve passenger loyalty and optimize flight operations.

How will in-flight internet work and what are the challenges?

In-flight Wi-Fi services rely on geostationary satellites which beam signals directly to antennas installed on the airline. This is more effective when the airline is passing over a water body compared with ATG (air-to-ground)-based networks which use satellites to beam the signal first to a transmitter on the ground and then to the antennas on the airline. The direct transmission of internet through satellites will be carried over the Ku and Ka bands. Airlines and service providers will have to put a server on the flight along with the equipment to convert satellite signals into data packets. They will also have to add the equipment to re-orient the antenna to face the satellite so the reception quality is not affected. Also, there will be interruptions when the airline moves from the range of one satellite to another.

The government opened the license for In-flight maritime and communication (IFMC) services in Dec 2018. Our Martine communication got operational in Sep 2019 and today we have launched our aero in-flight communication services.

The IFMC service will allow broadband internet services while flying over the Indian skies and sailing in Indian waters, both for international and Indian aircraft and vessels.

India gave a green signal to allow internet services in-flight in its airspace in May 2018 when the Department of Telecom approved recommendations to allow data and voice services in flights over Indian airspace.

The license is granted against an annual fee of Re 1 for a period of 10 years and the permit holder has to pay licence fees and spectrum charges based on revenue earned from services.