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Wi-Fi in Indian skies still remains a pipe dream


August 3, 2016: Getting Wi-Fi connectivity while flying in India remains a pipe dream for travellers – whether domestic or international.

Indian carriers say offering the service is too expensive for them and none of them have Internet -on-board.

Apart from this, not all the big international airlines, which have Wi-Fi on board, are able to provide it in Indian airspace due to stringent rules of having a local server.

For instance, Singapore Airlines (SIA) has Wi-Fi on its Boeing 777s and the Airbus A-380s. While the B-777s have Internet in Indian airspace, it has to be switched off in its A-380s. SIA’s internet service provider said this is the result of Indian “regulatory constraints” as local rules require “all satellite operators to establish a communication satellite gateway in India”.

“Inmarsat, our satellite connectivity partner, is engaged in the building of such a gateway,” Cecilia Odello from SITAONAIR told TOI.

Dubai-based mega carrier Emirates also faces the same issue. “To meet the current regulatory requirements, Emirates does not enable Internet access on board our flights over Indian airspace. The regulatory framework is complex but it is evolving and we are confident that in the future this will be resolved, allowing our customers to connect to Wi-Fi over India very soon,” said Patrick Brannelly, Emirates divisional VP (customer experience).

Industry sources say India imposes this condition due to fears over data security infringement. Indian airlines, meanwhile, are watching from the sidelines. The big two – Air India and Jet – do not have Wi-Fi on their planes.