Hughes to Offer Connectivity on Airlines & Ships

Hughes Communications India, a VSAT service provider, has become the country’s first company to bag a permit to offer in-flight connectivity and broadband services on airlines and ships using satellite systems.

The department of telecommunications issued the company a 10-year flight and maritime permit valid till February 2029.

HCIL, majority-owned by US-based Hughes Network Systems, will be able to offer calling and internet connectivity on Indian and foreign ships and airlines within the country and also overseas through roaming arrangements.

“While our FMC licence says the service can be provided within Indian territorial waters/airspace, DoT subsequently clarified that we will be able to provide the service to Indian shipping vessels and aircraft in international waters and airspace,” HCIL CTO K Krishna said. Within India, the company will provide FMC services over “domestic and foreign satellites permitted by the Department of Space,” HCIL said in a statement Thursday.

DoT notified the Indian Flight & Maritime Connectivity Rules, 2018, in December, paving the way for flyers and seafarers to use the internet and make calls.

Krishna said HCIL plans “to initially offer calling and fast broadband services to Indian shipping companies by end-March and extend the same to airlines by June.”

HCIL, he said, is in “discussions to partner with leading shipping lines and airline companies” but declined to reveal the names or possible tariff structures on confidentiality grounds.

HCIL MD Partho Banerjee said the company “stands ready operationally to initiate high-quality broadband services for both airlines and maritime operators, including having the availability of ubiquitous satellite coverage across Indian airspace and territorial waters.”

Euroconsult estimates that over 23,000 commercial aircraft will offer connectivity to their passengers by 2027, up from 7,400 aircraft in 2017.

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