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Soon, use mobiles, internet on flights in India as TRAI issues new recommendations

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday recommended that in-flight connectivity — both Internet and MCA (mobile communication on aircraft) services — should be allowed over Indian airspace.

“It would be the business call of the airline whether it wants to offer Internet services, or MCA services, or both. However, the Authority is of the view that as long as the provision of the service is technically feasible and security concerns can be addressed, there should be no regulatory barrier in the provisioning of any of these services. Therefore, both Internet and MCA service should be permitted as in-flight connectivity (IFC) services in the Indian airspace,” said TRAI. The decision comes after several rounds of consultation with industry and other stakeholders, which started in September last year.

To maintain compatibility with terrestrial networks, TRAI has suggested a minimum height restriction of 3,000 metres for mobile communication. A flight generally attains the altitude of 3,000 metres about four-five minutes after take-off.

The regulator also said that Internet services through onboard Wi-Fi should be made available only when electronic devices are permitted to be used only in flight or airplane mode, an announcement regarding this should be made when boarding is over and the aircraft is about to taxi. “It would ensure that there is no encroachment on the scope of terrestrial Internet service provided by telecom service providers as well as practically there won’t be any appreciable discontinuity in the provisioning of Internet services to the fliers,” said TRAI.

During the consultation process, TRAI said, several stakeholders raised red-flags over providing MCA service, pointing out that its regulatory framework was more complex and issues such as interference, roaming, spectrum use would need to be addressed. Further, one stakeholder also said that airlines were no longer installing MCA technologies as Internet data services, messaging applications and voice over internet protocol applications were addressing most of the in-flight mobile connectivity requirements.

From a policy perspective, TRAI has called for establishing a separate category of licence called in-flight connectivity (IFC) service provider. In its recommendations, the regulator said that to promote the concept of in-flight connectivity, these service providers should be charged a nominal licence fee of Re 1 per annum, which could be changed later. TRAI also said the regulatory requirements should be the same for both Indian and foreign airlines.

The Indian Express, in February 2017, first reported that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had proposed allowing in-flight connectivity to give passengers access to voice and data services on board aircraft flying over Indian airspace. The proposal, which was earlier being considered by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, was sent to DoT, which had sought TRAI’s views.

Earlier, the DoT had sent a draft plan to amend the Indian Telegraph Rules and the Indian Telegraph Act to a committee of secretaries, but the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Space had sought clarifications.

Considering that satellite communications technology is more widely used for providing in-flight connectivity worldwide, TRAI has recommended allowing it for providing in-flight connectivity. However, it has also suggested allowing Direct Air-To-Ground communication system. “Some stakeholders submitted that Direct Air-To-Ground (A2G) communication system should also be considered for provision of IFC services. They are of the opinion that the user experience in terms of billing and ‘ease of use’ is better. Further, A2G-based IFC services would be quicker to deploy and also more cost-efficient,” said TRAI.

One of the red flags raised by the Home Ministry was the lawful interception of Internet traffic when using satellite systems. For this, TRAI has suggested that the gateway switch for providing access to the Internet, when an aircraft is in Indian airspace, should be in India. “The deployment of a gateway in India provides an effective mechanism to lawfully intercept and monitor the in-cabin Internet traffic while the aircraft is in Indian airspace. Therefore, the onboard Internet traffic must be routed to a satellite gateway on Indian soil. Such an obligation should be imposed, regardless of whether the satellite in question is an Indian satellite system or not,” TRAI noted.

Globally, while the provision of onboard Wi-Fi is a popular service with airlines, not many allow mobile communication. As per TRAI, over 30 airlines allow the use of mobile phone on aircraft, including AirAsia, Air France, British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Further, more than 40 jurisdictions, including countries in the European Union, Asia and Australia, have authorised the use of mobile communications services on aircraft, said TRAI.

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TECHNOLOGY

Soon you may have 13-digit mobile number

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New Delhi: The Department of Telecom (DoT) had reportedly issued a directive to all the telecom operators in India, asking them to start issuing 13-digit mobile numbers to customers. The news was confirmed by a senior BSNL official who told CNN-News 18 that the directive from DoT had come on January 8, 2018, post which the company has started working on it. The decision has been taken to provide better security features to users.

Under this latest development, the existing mobile users’ numbers will be ported to 13-digits starting from October 1, 2018. The last date to complete the process would be December 31, 2018. “It is decided that 13-digit M2M (Machine-to-machine) numbering plan will be implemented from July 1, 2018. From this date onwards, all new M2M mobile connections will be allocated 13-digit numbers only… Migration of existing 10-digit M2M numbers will start latest by 1 October 2018 and shall be completed by 31 December 2018,” the official was quoted saying in the report.

If the decision is implemented, India will become the country with the longest mobile numbers, with China the only country at scale with 11 digit mobile numbers, not counting the area code. Apart from this, only French ‘regions’ of Gaudeloupe, Martinique and Reunion have longer numbers.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Communication in a letter written to TRAI has reportedly said that ’13-digit numbering scheme has been approved for SIM-based M2M devices’. A M2M sim is actually the technology which enables devices and sensors or things to communicate with each other and with other Internet-enabled devices and systems. These sims can be used in any mobile phone.

The problem, however, with a 13-digit number is that it would be virtually impossible for a person to remember it, possibly leading to massive dislocations across business processes like banks where provisioning has been made to capture only 10 digit mobile numbers.

Moreover, there are about a billion active mobile users in India and given that they had recently completed the process of linking their Aadhaar card, this might lead to some confusion and chaos.

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Reliance JioPhone will get its own Facebook app tomorrow

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Facebook will be available on Reliance JioPhone from tomorrow through app store available on the handset, a company statement said today.
“JioPhone is the world’s most affordable smartphone built with transformational technology especially for Indians to migrate from a feature phone to smartphone. As promised, JioPhone will be home to the world’s leading applications, starting with Facebook,” Jio Director Akash Ambani said in the statement.
The new version of the Facebook app is built specially for Jio KaiOS, a web-based operating system designed for JioPhone.
This will open up Facebook for potential 50 crore feature phone users in India.
The new Facebook app for JioPhone will support push notifications, video, and links to external content.
“We are excited about our partnership with Jio and the opportunity to provide the best possible Facebook experience for millions of people using JioPhone,” Facebook Vice President of Mobile Partnerships Francisco Varela said.
The app is also optimised to accommodate the cursor function on JioPhone.

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Republic Day offer| Jio hikes per day data limit by 500 MB on popular plans

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Reliance Jio has announced a new recharge offer as part of the ‘Republic Day 2018’ for its customers, under which its existing 1GB and 1.5GB daily data packs have been upgraded to offer 1.5GB and 2GB daily data respectively, without any change in the price-point. The validity for the plans also remain the same as Jio Happy New Year 2018 offer.

Reliance Jio’s recharge offers have been unveiled in response to Airtel’s prepaid plans, which were recently revamped to give users 1.4GB data per day, instead of 1GB daily previously. Reliance Jio’s Republic Day 2018 plans will go live starting January 26. Reliance Jio’s cheapest prepaid plan comes at Rs 98 and it offers a total of 2GB data for 28 days. The plan originally offers 2.1GB data for 14 days. Notably, all Jio users get free unlimited voice calls, SMS and access to Jio’s suite of apps.

Under Jio’s Republic Day 2018 offer, the Rs 149 plan will give users 1.5GB daily data for 28 days, which means 42GB in total. The plan currently offers 28GB data in total for a period of 28 days with 1GB as the daily FUP. Additionally, Jio’s Rs 349 plan will now provide a total of 105GB data at 1.5GB per day, instead of 70GB earlier (1GB per day). Validity is 70 days.

Reliance Jio’s Rs 399 and Rs 449 plans will now offer a total of 126GB and 136GB data respectively, at 1.5GB per day. The validity for Rs 399 plan is 84 days, while that for Rs 449 plan is 91 days. Jio’s Rs 399 plan currently gives users 84GB total data at 1GB per day, while Rs 449 offers 91GB data in all.

Coming to Reliance Jio’s 2GB daily data packs, the Rs 198 and Rs 398 prepaid packs have been revamped to offer a total of 56GB amd 140GB data respectively. Validity is 28 days and 70 days respectively. Under Jio’s Happy New Year offer, the Rs 198 plan currently gives users a total of 42GB data at 1.5GB per day, for 28 days. Meanwhile, the Rs 398 recharge offer gives users 105GB data (1.5GB daily) for 70 days

Reliance Jio users who recharge with Rs 448 will get a total of 168GB data, compared to 126GB currently. The validity is 84 days. Under the new plan, users get 2GB daily data, instead of 1.5GB per day. Finally, Jio’s 498 pack offers 182GB data at 2GB per day, for 91 days. The existing plan offers 136GB data in all with daily FUP (Fair Usage Policy) of 1.5GB per day. Validity is 91 days.

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