Passengers jetting through Indian airspace – including Australian flights to Europe and the Gulf states – may soon enjoy consistent Internet coverage under new regulations proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
India currently bans all inflight WiFi – including on international flights merely passing above India – which creates a 'black hole' of disconnectivity on many flights between Australia/New Zealand and the Middle East, and between South East Asia and Europe.
That roster includes WiFi-enabled flights of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways between Australia/NZ and Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, respectively, which frequently cross Indian airspace…
… along with flights from Singapore to European destinations such as London and Paris, which are also popular with Australian passengers:
The new approach recommended by TRAI would see India finally allowing inflight WiFi in its airspace by both Indian and foreign carriers, along with voice calling if supported by airlines, and video services too such as streaming television channels.
As is standard in most parts of the world, service would be permitted when the aircraft is cruising at or above 10,000 feet, which could also bring connectivity to passengers on Indian domestic flights for the first time.
However, as a condition of removing its long-standing roadblock, India would require that all web, voice and video traffic in its airspace be routed through a gateway on Indian soil, to allow the country’s intelligence services to monitor and intercept that traffic in line with Indian laws.
India is one of very few countries to adopt a blanket ban on inflight WiFi, and in most cases is the only country Australian travellers will overfly on journeys to and from Europe which still blacks out the service, as highlighted on this Emirates inflight WiFi coverage map, where unavailability is highlighted in red:
A timeline for final approval is yet to be established.