The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has taken a significant step in addressing the regulation of data communication services between aircraft and ground stations provided by organizations other than the Airports Authority of India.
To improve flight safety and enhance search and rescue operations during aviation disasters, TRAI released a Supplementary Consultation Paper seeking recommendations on key aspects of these services.
The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) had previously requested TRAI's intervention in formulating a comprehensive regulatory framework. The DoT highlighted the importance of VHF data link services to provide Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting (ACAR) service for tracking aircraft and providing real-time data for safety purposes.
As such, the Ministry of Communications made frequency assignments for these services to Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques (SITA) and Bird Consultancy Services (BCS).
The primary areas of focus for TRAI's recommendations are as follows:
Regulatory Mechanism: The Supplementary Consultation Paper aims to establish an appropriate mechanism to regulate data communication services provided by organizations like SITA and BCS. This step is vital in ensuring the smooth and secure functioning of such services.
Frequency Assignment: TRAI seeks to address the frequency assignment process, taking into consideration the Supreme Court's judgment in 2012 that radio frequencies should be allocated through auctions. The challenge lies in finding a balance between efficiency and equitable distribution.
Service License: To enable the provision of data communication services between aircraft and ground stations, a service license framework needs to be put in place. TRAI is seeking inputs from stakeholders to ensure the process is transparent and fair.
Spectrum Assignment Methodology: Defining a methodology for spectrum assignment is essential to avoid interference and promote efficient use of available spectrum resources. TRAI is keen to hear from stakeholders on how this can be best achieved.
Spectrum Charging Mechanism: The issue of spectrum pricing is always critical in the telecom sector. TRAI is soliciting feedback on the appropriate charging mechanism for the spectrum used in aircraft data communication services.
Earlier, TRAI had released a Consultation Paper on the same subject on December 10, 2022, and organized an Open House Discussion on March 10, 2023, through video conferencing. However, some specific inputs were missing, prompting the issuance of this supplementary paper to seek further recommendations.
Stakeholders and interested parties can contribute inputs to TRAI's website, where the Supplementary Consultation Paper has been made available.
This initiative aims to harness collective wisdom and expertise to create a robust regulatory framework that fosters the growth of data communication services between aircraft and ground stations while ensuring safety and operational efficiency in India's aviation sector.