The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has removed the ban on the use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) including cellphones during a flights in India. Now on, you can use your phone as long as it is in airplane/flight mode. All flight operators are now required to report any suspected or confirmed PED interference, or smoke or fire caused by PEDs to the DGCA.
The rules that were amended seem to address DGCA’s civil aviation requirement 3.1 which had stated, “No person shall use any electronic device, which intentionally transmits radio signals like mobile/cellular phones, amateur radio transceivers, etc at all times while on board an aircraft for the purpose of flight.” It could have also changed rule in Aircraft rule (29 B): “No person shall operate, nor shall the operator or the pilot-in-command of an aircraft allow the operation of any portable electronic device on board an aircraft in flight.”
Flight operators had raised the issue of letting people use the devices in airplane mode during a meeting last week with the DGCA. The DGCA examined their demand in view of the new and current regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Under the FAA and the EASA Regulations, the use of PEDs is allowed in the airplane mode in all phases of flight.
What about WiFi? It is not clear if DGCA is also looking at allowing in-flight WiFi any time soon. Air India for example said that it will not be able to offer WiFi on its flights due to these regulations prohibiting the use of WiFi and mobile connectivity during a flight. It was reportedly in talks with in-flight WiFi service provider OnAir who informed the airline that none of the flights they offer the service to, could provide WiFi while flying over India.
Air India had also said that it will request both the home and telecom ministry to lift this ban on WiFi in flights. Recent studies have shown that WiFi and other communication networks have no effect on the communication between pilot and ground crew. Following this, American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had changed its rules to allow use of most electronic equipment on board
There has also been the argument that cellphones operate on different bands and airlines cannot act as an operator during a flight. However that point is not applicable for WiFi services.