The world’s fastest-growing major air-travel market is facing difficulty to get approvals for on-board Wi-Fi in its airspace from the Indian government. Apparently, even though neighbours Pakistan and China allow it, the Indian government is reluctant to allow in-flight Wi-Fi on security grounds.
Earlier in the month of August this year, according to several media reports, the Indian government had agreed to allow Wi-Fi onboard aircraft, as the home, telecom and aviation ministries had reached on a consensus on the issue after detailed discussions over security.
Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey said had said in the silver jubilee celebrations of the Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) in August, “There is fairly a good chance that in ten days permission will be given to operate Wi-Fi in the Indian airspace.”
“I will be able to give you good news in 10 days,” he had added.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, despite calls from the industry and certifications from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory bodies, India will continue to ban Wi-Fi on civilian flights.
The promises were made to the extent that if data is going to be allowed, it should be possible to make calls as well.
In August, Choubey had said that the Cabinet’s approval would not be required for the proposal, but he now stated that though the aviation ministry was in favour of relaxing the norms, approvals from the “communications ministry” were still pending.
The government’s decision has certainly come as a shock to domestic carriers like Jet Airways that had announced the roll-out of in-flight Wi-Fi services in the month of February.
FYI, Indian laws are so stringent that even international flights are required to turn off their internet services when they fly over the Indian airspace.
Although aviation technology specialists insist that mid-air Wi-Fi is an internationally tried-and-tested process and has dismissed all security concerns as “spurious”, the Indian government continues to worry on security grounds.
The government too cannot be blamed as it is still haunted by the Kandahar hijack incident that took place 15 years ago where Indian Airlines Flight 814 en route from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, was hijacked in 1999.