BSNL receives licence to offer broadband on planes

BSNL has received licence to offer UK-based Inmarsat’s broadband services in India that would enable inflight and maritime connectivity for airlines and ships.
Passenger seats inside aircraft
Passenger seats inside aircraft
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State-owned BSNL has received licence to offer Inmarsat's Global Xpress (GX) mobile broadband services in India that would enable high-speed inflight and maritime connectivity for airlines and ships using Inmarsat terminals and infrastructure, the British satellite company announced on Wednesday, October 21. SpiceJet Ltd and Shipping Corporation of India have already signed up for the new GX services, which would open-up capacities as high as 50Mbps, Inmarsat India Managing Director, Gautam Sharma told PTI.

Once deployed, the GX services can enable Indian domestic airlines as well as international airlines flying over India to provide the high-speed inflight connectivity, allowing passengers to surf the internet, check social media, send emails and even make voice call over apps, during flights, according to Sharma. In a statement issued by Inmarsat, SpiceJet said it is looking to offer the "ground-breaking connectivity service" to its passengers later this year, when it introduces new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Under BSNL's Inflight and Maritime Connectivity (IFMC) licence from Telecom Department, GX will be available to Indian customers across government, aviation and maritime, an Inmarsat statement said. The announcement assumes significance as it means that India's airlines will be able to deploy GX for in-flight connectivity within India and across the world, while India's commercial maritime companies will be able to enhance significantly the digitalisation of their vessels for more effective ship operations and crew welfare services.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) Chairman and Managing Director PK Purwar said the tariffs for the offering are yet to be decided. Asked about when these services would be operational, Purwar said, "from our side, BSNL will be ready with these services from November".

BSNL's licence will also see the GX service offered to government and other users. Introduction of services will happen in a phased manner, for customers and partners.

The statement quoted Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of SpiceJet Ltd, as saying: We are delighted that Global Xpress, the world-leading passenger inflight connectivity service, is now coming to India".

"We are looking forward to offering this ground-breaking connectivity service to our passengers later this year, when we introduce our new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft," Singh said adding it will enable customers to remain connected in the air as they do on the ground.

GX, operating in the Ka-band, is a high-speed broadband network designed for mobility. The company is launching a further seven GX satellites, including its next-generation GX satellites, over the coming three years, each of which will add more capacity into a single region than the first four satellites combined. The GX gateway for India is located in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.

Today is a significant day for Inmarsat and our valued, long-term partnership with India, which was a signatory to the founding treaty establishing Inmarsat in 1979," Rajeev Suri, Inmarsat CEO said.

Inmarsat, Suri said, is "delighted" to make the global high-speed mobile broadband `Ka-band' network available to the government and businesses in India through partner BSNL. "Today's announcement...will help to underpin the further economic growth that we all wish to see in India," Suri said.

BSNL's Purwar said 'Global Xpress' is recognised as the world's best high-speed satellite communications service for government and mobility business customers and "we are very pleased to make these capabilities available to users in India".

Inmarsat is well-positioned to partner with the Indian government to address the ever-growing demand for reliable, mobile satellite communication services across a broad range of commercial and public sectors, Inmarsat's Sharma said.

After the introduction of Inmarsat's voice and broadband data communication services across India in the past, Inmarsat's Global Xpress services has now secured the necessary licenses through partner BSNL, Sharma added.

Terming Global Xpress as "gold standard of high-speed satellite mobile broadband communications", Sharma said it will enable Indian domestic airlines and international airlines flying over India to provide the fast inflight connectivity.

"It will also speed up the digitalisation of Indian-flagged maritime vessels and give an edge to the Indian Government, including its defence forces," Sharma noted.

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