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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mallya applies for inflight mobile

Vijay Mallaya-owned Kingfisher Airline has sought clearance from government for providing inflight mobile service on its international flights. According to airline's executive vice president Hitesh Patel, the ministry of communication's nod has been sought as the company wants to provide this service from day one of its international services that start in August.

"Our wide-bodied aircraft are coming installed with the required infrastructure for inflight mobile service. Airbus is doing this job and we are seeking regulatory approvals from agencies like the department of telecommunication," he said.

Of the two carriers that currently fly abroad, Jet Airways is yet to decide on providing this service. Air India is studying technological options and plans to install this facility. Leading airlines across the world are in the process of offering inflight mobiles but weigh it against the option of discomfort to other passengers and regulatory issues. People have to pay premium international roaming charges for using this facility.

According to sources, India is not averse to its carriers providing such service, subject to safety compliance. Kingfisher has made a presentation to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) which wants a complete report on the technology that will be used and its effect on aircraft navigation systems.

"The request for clearance is with the department of telecom. One issue is that Indian carriers should use the BSNL server for this facility so that the country's security agencies are able to monitor the calls if need be. From BSNL, the calls will be routed to other networks. The airline's service provider is looking at the cost implications of this routing," said sources.

The DGCA wants to see what steps have been taken to ensure that wattage emissions from mobiles on board aircraft are kept low enough to not interfere with navigation systems. Modern technology allows this emission to be limited to one watt so that even if 20 to 30 phones are being used for calls or SMS texts, there is no interference with the aircraft.

On Thursday, Emirates claimed to become the first airline to commercially launch an inflight mobile telephone service. "The first authorised mobile phone call from a commercial flight was made on Thursday at 30,000 feet enroute from Dubai to Casablanca an Emirates Airbus A 340-300 aircraft," it said. "The service will only be activated when aircraft is at cruising altitude and the cabin crew will have full control over the system, including the ability to prevent voice calls at certain times such as during night flights."

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