In-flight data services may soon take off on Air Vistara

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on December 28, 2019 Published on December 28, 2019

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Airline ties up with Nelco; other carriers say services too expensive for now

Soon, you will be able to stay connected with your near and dear even when 30,000 ffleet in the airspace over the country.

Air Vistara could be the first domestic airline to launch data services that will allow passengers to use their smartphones and even make calls when in air through calling apps like WhatsApp.

in March, the Department of Telecom (DoT) gave some airlines spectrum to start data services. Vistara has tied-up with Nelco for providing the service.

Vistara is a joint venture between the Tata Group and Singapore Airlines, while Nelco is also part of the Tata group, offering solutions in the areas of very small aperture terminal (VSAT, satellite) connectivity, Satcom projects and integrated security and surveillance solutions.

“Vistara has tied-up with Nelco, and it has taken permission from ISRO also for some transponder space. They had come to us for some spectrum, which we have done and they will be launching these services very shortly. These will be data services...there can be voice services as well, but data is as good as voice because data use OTT (over the top) and can make WhatsApp calls, etc,”Anshu Prakash, Secretary, DoT, told reporters recently in Rewari (Haryana).

Speaking on the sidelines of an event, Prakash said that while airlines can offer both voice and data connectivity under the ‘Flight and Maritime Connectivity Rules-2018’ notified by the government in December 2018, Vistara is likely to offer data connectivity first.

Vistara launched ‘Vistara World’ last year, which allows passengers to use their smart devices or laptops and enjoy movies and music while flying. The airline has 41 aircraft and operates to most cities across India, and also flies to four international destinations — Bangkok, Dubai, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

Asked when it is going to start the in-flight data services, a Vistara spokesperson said, “We have not finalised the details yet.”

Tariff issues

Other airlines, too, are on the verge of launching similar services, but the main issue is will of tariff as maritime and in-flight connectivity could be costlier compared to the rates on land.

The country’s largest low-cost carrier, IndiGo, said that starting such services would be too expensive for now.

“With a fleet approaching 250 aircraft, any decision to offer in-flight data services would be a major expense, which is not merited at present... we are focused on on-time, hassle-free service allied to low fares,” William Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo, told BusinessLine.

Published on December 28, 2019
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