If you have ever travelled in an Indian flight, you would have noticed the sudden start of the message tones, the second the flight lands. Well, for all we may know, the time is not very far before these tones do not stop throughout the journey.
On the silver jubilee celebrations of the Air Passengers Association of India, civil aviation secretary R.N Chaubey announced that within 10 days, there is a possibility that airlines flying in and out of the country will have in-flight WiFi.
Why Was It Not Introduced Earlier?
In-flight WiFi services first started in 2009 when Virgin America introduced Gogo’s Inflight WiFi facility in its fleet of airplanes.
With the efforts taken by Gogo and the various technologies it adapts to provide in-flight wifi, has helped a lot of airlines improve their onboard services with the growing demand of always being connected.
However, even with all the advances made worldwide, the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation cling on the age-old belief that radio signals from electronic devices can hinder the aircraft’s navigation and communication.
The DGCA has been so hell-bent with its rules, that airplanes flying in the Indian airspace were required to switch off their in-flight WiFi services for the entire time that they flew over the country.
It was not until 2014 that these rules came into light when AirIndia decided to introduce in-flight WiFi services, but were unable to do so because of the archaic rules and regulations.
“Will The Service Be Free, And What About The Speed?”
Considering airlines that have been providing in-flight WiFi service, it is highly unlikely that this facility will be free. Each airline adopts its own method in trying to provide WiFi services to its passengers; thus, charging differently for its service.
For example, British Airways provide the service at approximately USD 14 an hour, while in Qatar Airways the price is completely dependent on the passenger’s service provider’s international charges.
The internet speed on flights is good enough to work on last minute presentations, check e-mail, and surf through social media sites. Some airlines do allow streaming Netflix on the available WiFi, but it all comes at a cost.
Reality Check: Is It Feasible?
Launching in-flight WiFi services requires the installation of antennas on aircraft, and establishing connections with either ground-based towers or satellites.
Even if all this is done, its profitability is still a question, because every minute that the aircraft spends on the ground will result in a loss for the airlines.
So, it is quite clear that practically, such services will be redundant for domestic aircraft because even though a lot of them have a flight time of more than 24hours, most of it is spent on stopovers.
With a lot of time and money invested and the power to charge for the service bestowed on airlines, there is a possibility that a few hours of in-flight WiFi will have the capability to cause a huge hole in our pockets. Although this service might be a boon on international flights, it is dubious if its cost and speed will be worth the effort.
With issues of feasibility set aside, the home, telecommunication, and aviation ministries are predominantly concerned about the security of this service. According to Mr. Choubey, the ministries are reaching a consensus regarding this issue, and the big announcement (if any) is just a few days.
Will our excitement of finally being able to use the internet and not switching on the ‘Airplane Mode’ on our mobile devices, be worth it? Only time will tell.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.