Saturday, December 28, 2019

Vistara to be 1st in India to bring in-flight Wi-Fi

New Delhi: Vistara is all set to become the first Indian carrier to offer inflight WiFi in the New Year. The Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines (SIA) JV will provide this facility on Boeing 787 Dreamliners that start joining its fleet from February to be deployed on medium haul routes like London and Tokyo from March-end, say sources. The full service carrier has ordered six B787s, with an option to order four more, and inflight connectivity (IFC) will be on Vistara wide body aircraft initially. A decision on providing the same on the narrow body Airbus A320s will be taken at a later stage.
Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash told the media on Friday: “Vistara has tied up with Nelco (a Tata Group communication services company) and they have taken transponder space from Indian Space Research Organisation. They had come to us for spectrum allocation which we have done. And they will be launching these services very shortly.”

India has allowed both inflight voice and data connectivity but airlines globally prefer limiting to data to avoid inconvenience to co-passengers. “There can also be voice but voice is not happening right now. Still data is as good as voice, because once you have data you can make WhatsApp calls,” Prakash added.

A Vistara spokesperson said the airline “has not yet finalised” the onboard WiFi plans.

Low cost SpiceJet also planned to provide IFC on its Boeing 737 Max that are equipped with Satcom to enable on board Internet. It got first of the ordered upto 205 B737 Max in October 2018 but till then the rules were not in place in India for IFC. These planes have been grounded globally from earlier this year and there is no clarity when they will fly again. Air India and grounded Jet Airways also toyed with this idea but could not implement due to financial crunch.
Some Indian carriers, including Vistara, currently stream in-flight entertainment (IFE) on passengers' personal electronic devices. But that IFE content is stored onboard and instead of being shown on back-of-the-seat screens (that aircraft of Air India have and Jet had), the same is streamed on PEDs. This, however, is not WiFi streaming as passengers on Indian carriers currently choose from what’s on offer instead of surfing the Net that on-board WiFi allows them to do.
28/12/19 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India
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