Financial stress in aviation sector hits in-flight connectivity plans

Topics airlines | Aviation

Indo Teleports, a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, received the licence to provide inflight and maritime connectivity and broadband services on domestic and foreign airlines in April
Financial stress in the aviation sector is likely to delay the ambitious in-flight connectivity services in the country, it is learnt. Hughes Communication, Tatanet Services, Indo Teleports and BSNL-Inmarsat, the four companies to have got the licence earlier this year are in waiting.

These companies are yet to start the service despite getting the licence soon after the in-flight connectivity services were notified in December 2018, an official in the know said.

Currently, there’s no demand as the existing aircraft fleet requires retrofitting to enable these services and no airline can afford that expenditure at this juncture, the official pointed out.

Analysts agreed, saying there’s neither a penalty nor cancellation of licence if the services are not commenced.

But, some like full-service carrier Vistara, a joint venture of the Tatas and Singapore Airlines, are making preparations. Vistara is likely to launch the service in the new Boeing 787-9 aircraft. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had notified the Indian 

Flight & Maritime Connectivity Rules, 2018, in December, paving the way for flyers and seafarers to use the internet and make calls.
In-flight and maritime connectivity (IFMC) can be provided using telecom networks on the ground as well as using satellites. 

The IFMC licences are granted against an annual fee of Re 1 for a period of 10 years. 

The permit holder will have to pay licence fees and spectrum charges based on the earnings from the in-flight services.

Indo Teleports, a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, received the licence to provide inflight and maritime connectivity and broadband services on domestic and foreign airlines in April. The New Delhi-based company establishes, sets up, and operates uplinking hub for TV signals.


An Airtel spokesperson said the company was actively engaging with all stakeholders across the ecosystem, including airlines, to roll out the services at the earliest. “The ecosystem is still nascent and business models are evolving. The new aircraft are expected to be launched shortly by the airlines with in-flight connectivity equipment, and we expect these services to pick up once these aircraft are inducted,’’ the executive said. 


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