The Department of Telecommunications (DOT) gave a nod to the much-awaited Flight and Maritime Connectivity Rules, 2018 on December 14, 2018 to provide ‘In Flight and Maritime Connectivity service’ (IFMC service).
The IFMC service provider must get an authorisation from the DOT to provide wireless voice or data or both type of telegraph messages on ships within Indian territorial waters and on aircraft within or above India or Indian territorial waters.
ELIGIBILITY TO PROVIDE IFMC SERVICE:
- By Service Providers themselves:
a. The licensee applying for authorisation to provide IFMC service shall hold a license for access service or an ISP category A license; and
b. hold an NLD license or a commercial VSAT CUG service license, and have a satellite gateway earth station within the service area the license as specified in (a), in case of connectivity through satellite is used.
2. Through Commercial Agreements:
Further, the following entities are also eligible to provide IFMC service:
- any Indian airlines company or foreign airlines company having permission to enter Indian airspace by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation;
- any Indian shipping company or foreign shipping company whose vessels or ships call Indian ports or transit Indian territorial waters and intend to carry out communication for non-GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) [routine] or for commercial purpose; and
- any company incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013 (18 of 2013) or under any previous company law;
by entering into commercial agreements with above-mentioned service providers.
Note: The regulatory permissions under these Rules shall be the same for both, Indian registered airlines or ships and foreign registered airlines or ships offering IFMC services. These rules shall also be applicable for business jets, executive aircraft, and yachts.
TYPE OF SERVICES TO BE PROVIDED:
- Data; or
- Voice; or
Data service may be provided by the IFMC service provider through Wi-Fi also.
PROCEDURE, VALIDITY AND FEE OF OBTAINING AUTHORISATION
The licensee or the company (as the case may be) seeking authorisation shall make an application in the form provided in Annexure appended to the Rules along with non- refundable processing fee of Rs. 50,000/-. The DOT may provide the authorisation after satisfying itself with the contents of the application.
Such authorisation will be valid for a period of ten years from the date of its grant.
The IFMC service provider shall pay an annual fee of Re. 1/- per annum to the DoT through Bharatkosh. Revenue earned by the partnering licensee from IFMC service providers or by the licensee providing IFMC services shall be included in the gross revenue of the licensee, for the purpose of license fee and spectrum usage charges.
The designated authority shall have the right to monitor or intercept the telegraph message passing through the IFMC network.
The IFMC service provider is responsible either itself or through its partnering licensee for following:
- providing monitoring and interception facilities at the premises of designated authorities of the Central Government or a State Government;
- make arrangements for monitoring of telegraph message in en clair form (in ordinary language, rather than in code or cipher);
- shall arrange for appropriately dimensioned hardware and bandwidth or dark fibre upto a designated point as required by the DoT for establishing connectivity to a centralised monitoring system.
The IFMC service provider will commence provision of services only after giving an intimation to do so to the DoT. Further, they will demonstrate the above facilities to the DoT, within 90 days from the date of intimation.
Other important highlights of the Rules are-
- The IFMC service provider shall provide the operation of mobile communication services in aircraft at a minimum height of 3000 meters in Indian airspace to avoid interference with terrestrial mobile networks.
- Internet services through Wi-Fi in aircraft shall be made available when electronic devices are permitted to be used only in airplane mode.
- The modification of aircraft registered in India, to provide IFMC facility, shall be approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation as per the Aircraft Rules, 1937.
- There shall be separate infrastructure for IFMC and navigation system in aircraft and ships to avoid interference.
- IFMC shall be in exclusive control of the pilot or captain of the aircraft or ship to enable him to turn off the connectivity during any adverse condition.
 Flight and Maritime Connectivity Rules, 2018, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications, available at http://www.dot.gov.in/whatsnew/gazette-notification-flight-and-maritime-connectivity-rules-2018.