Airtel customers will soon be able to make and receive calls on their mobiles, send text messages and even access data while traveling on selected international airlines.Airtel has entered into an agreement with an inflight solutions firm,an outgoing call will cost Rs 188 per minute while it will be Rs 24 per minute for incoming calls.
Passengers will be charged Rs 41 for an outgoing SMS while incoming SMSs will be free Airtel will be the first Indian telco to offer this facility to its customers. Globally, several operators across Europe, the US and Australia offer inflight services. Airtel's chief marketing officer Raghunath Mandava said 434 international flights that has this facility had taken off/landed in India.
AeroMobile, a UK-based company majority-owned by Norway's Telenor, is in the process of entering into tie-ups with more airlines and this number is set to increase, said Mr Mandava. "While AeroMobile has tie-ups with Emirates & Malaysia Airlines, not every aircraft on their fleet will have this facility. It will depend on whether the aircraft allotted on that route has been wired by AeroMobile. But, passengers will be informed during their bookings if the facility is available on the flight," he said.
Airtel customers will only have to activate their international roaming to use the service. On the tariff front, the rates will be similar to what Indian customers pay when they avail international roaming in Norway. This is because, AeroMobile is majority-owned by Norway's Telenor.
Passengers on international flights will not be able to use their handsets while flying over India as existing regulations do not permit cellular services on aircraft flying over Indian air space. "This facility will remain with the Captain of the aircraft. He can switch it on when the aircraft is outside the Indian air space, or turn it off, when it enters the country," Mr Mandava said.
According to AeroMobile's website, caller ID will also function as normal during inflight calls. "Simply switch your mobile phone on inflight to access GSM services, just as you would while traveling abroad you will be billed via your existing mobile phone service provider. GPRS and all other IP based services (e.g. internet) is available more applications will become possible once higher speed satellite communications services become available," the company website says.