NEW DELHI: In a year’s time, Indian flyers can browse the Internet and log on to sites like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. This inflight connectivity, which was hitherto available only for defence personnel, will be offered by State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and International Mobile Satellite Organization (Inmarsat).
“In about a year’s time, we will open satellite phone services to private companies and persons, as well as offer Internet facility on flights and ships,” BSNL chairman Anupam Shrivastava told ET.
Air travellers would get data via a Wi-Fi router. This will be facilitated through antennas which will link it to the nearest satellite. The bandwidth would be provided as per the tariff rolled out after necessary regulatory approvals, Shrivastava said. BSNL has already received the go ahead from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Satellite-based phone services in India were, till recently, offered by Tata Communications (TCL) after it acquired state-run Videsh Sanchar Nigam (VSNL) in February 2008. The Tata Group company has been offering limited satellite services. But this is now being transitioned to BSNL which is now the only player to have the licence to provide satellite phone services in India.
“We are the sole licensee to provide satellite services. Inmarsat has tied up with BSNL and has already installed their equipment on our premises after being tested for law enforcement,” a top BSNL executive said. The company has also already applied for the International Maritime Organisation licence.
The state-owned telco has already asked existing Inmarsat satellite phone users to migrate to the new network by July 31. The ongoing transition of network and subscribers from Tata Communications to the new network will be completed by August, Shrivastava said.
The satellite phones, as part of this shift, would come to the telco soon and have new SIM numbers. The first phase would involve the transition, which is expected to conclude by August end, followed by the stepping up of the network’s broadband capacity and finally extending this capacity to aircraft and ships, Shrivastava said.
US-based aerospace systems provider Honeywell, in a recent finding, estimated that ‘connected aircraft’ would be a $7-billion opportunity with as many as 25,000 airplanes expected to offer Internet connectivity by 2025. INMARSAT was set up under the United Nations in 1979 and India was one of its founding members.