Reliance Jio has applied to the Department of Telecom for an in-flight connectivity licence, reported the Economic Times, citing sources. The licence would allow it to offer mobile connectivity and data services on Indian and foreign airlines over Indian airspace for 10 years. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) also received similar applications from Ortus Communications, Station Satcom and Cloud Cast Digital, the report said, but has sought clarifications on at least one of them.

Earlier this month, Indo Teleports Limited (ITL), a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, received the ‘in-flight and maritime connectivity’ licence to provide Wi-Fi and mobile services on flights in Indian airspace. Just days earlier state-run telecom company BSNL was also granted the licence. BSNL’s partner Inmarsat said they expected to commence services “later this year, once the ground infrastructure and associated approvals are in place”. Hughes Communications India (HCIL) was the first company to be granted the licence, in February, per Business Line. Tatanet Services announced last month that it too had obtained the licence.According to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), India and North Korea are the only two countries that still do not allow in-flight connectivity. It was close to a year ago, in May 2018, that India’s Telecom Commission approved TRAI’s recommendations to allow in-flight connectivity in Indian airspace.

Rules for in-flight connectivity

In December 2018 the DoT notified the rules for in-flight connectivity in a circular. Here’s a lowdown:

Who can apply?

Any Indian airline or foreign airline company with permission to enter Indian airspace can apply for an in-flight license. Any company registered under the Companies Act, 2013 or any previous company law is also eligible.

Licensing

A license will be issued to an airline if:

  • It holds a license of access service or an ISP category A license
  • It has an NLD (National Long Distance) license, or a commercial VSAT-CUG (Very Small Aperture Terminal – Closed Use Group) service license. In case the airline provides connectivity via satellite, it must have a satellite gateway earth station within the service area.

The airline may provide data services via WiFi, but to provide mobile data it must enter into a commercial agreement with:

  • an access service provider or an ISP Category A, or
  • a commercial VSAT or NLD service with a satellite gateway earth station within the service area

Once it meets all the requirements, an airline will be authorised to provide in-flight connectivity for 10 years. Read more here.