India approves phones and Internet on flights

Air china Flight
India’s Telecom Commission today approved a proposal for allowing mobile phone calls and Internet services in domestic and international flights in India, with certain conditions, PTI reported.

The Telecom Commission also approved regulator TRAI’s recommendations on Internet telephony in its meeting.

Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters that Telecom Commission also approved the creation of an ombudsman to deal with telecom grievances.

The ombudsman will be set up under TRAI and will require amendment to the TRAI Act.

India government said nearly 10 million grievances are received per quarter in the telecom sector. She said the addition of the new mechanism of ombudsman will lead to a better and satisfactory consumer grievance redressal system.

COAI comments

COAI director general Rajan S Mathews said in-flight connectivity can be a new revenue stream for telcos as well as airlines. COAI had suggested in its response to TRAI earlier that this service should be done in conjunction with licensed service providers for security related reasons.

“Since complaints are miniscule in comparison to the subscriber base and the rupee values are not very large, existing mechanism of compliant redressal are adequate. We are not sure as to how setting up of an Ombudsman will add value to the existing system of compliant redressal,” COAI said.

Moreover, TRAI currently does not have adjuratory powers to act as Ombudsman and this will need to be addressed in the context of the Telecom Act 1885 under which TSP Licenses are granted.

The TRAI recommendation on VOIP appears to have marginal impact on consumers as voice calls are now almost free and provided on a bundled basis.

COAI believes that allowing internet services under a registration will tilt the level playing field against the licenced TSPs who are forced to pay levies and ensure adherence to various regulatory and security related requirements. COAI is of the view that Public WiFi should be allowed only through UL (VNO).

COAI said it is disappointed that no decision has been taken by Telecom Commission with respect to the allocation of E&V Bands as allocation of these bands at affordable prices can be a boon for the better customer experience and Digital India. These bands should be provided as a Backhaul Spectrum.