“Tariff plans are still a work in progress, and once the domestic market opens up for IFC, there will be different models which will come up. Some of it will be built into the price of a ticket, some will be charged separately,” PJ Nath, managing director, Nelco told ETTelecom.
Nath further said the company is in discussions on pricing strategy with stakeholders. “It (tariff) will also vary from one carrier to the other, in terms of how they want to start the service in the country,” he said, adding that Nelco remains the only company offering IFC services nationally.
Following the Coronavirus outbreak, the airline sector has taken a big hit, with flight operators remaining cautious, which according to the Mumbai-based company, is expected to be back to business soon.
“Due to the pandemic, the aviation sector has not done that well, so IFC has not been a priority for airlines so far, and has been kept on the back burner. It will definitely take off, because staying connected is a way of life today,” the top executive said.
In September 2019, Tata group’s Nelco forayed into maritime communication services, after receiving an In-Flight and Maritime Communication (IFMC) license.
“The license offers both voice and data. It will depend on the airline and what they want to do. What we have observed is that globally, people do not use a lot of voice, as they rather use data services. We will offer what the customer wants,” Nath added.
The Tata group’s company is working with Panasonic Avionics to offer IFC services in India. Japanese Panasonic commands nearly 30% of the IFC market share worldwide and works closely with airlines such as Emirates and British Airways.
Nelco maintains a gateway in Mumbai, and operates two teleports located in Mumbai and Dehradun.In May 2018, a high-level inter-ministerial committee, headed by then secretary, Department of Telecommunications Aruna Sundararajan, approved the move to allow air travelers to access the Internet and make voice calls.
In December 2018, the Centre launched IFMC licence regime allowing companies to offer in-flight connectivity services for 10 years. Mumbai-based Nelco, however, remains the only player to offer in-air connectivity services in the country.