Ready to connect: SITAONAIR and India’s new age of inflight connectivity


By Oliver Drennan, SITAONAIR General Counsel
Katrina Korzenowki, Commercial VP, Asia-Pacific, SITAONAIR

India’s decision to allow airlines to use inflight connectivity (IFC) in its airspace is truly historic for its aviation industry. SITA has built a very significant presence in India over many years, working closely with the aviation market to truly understand its airlines, business needs, and regulatory landscape. Now, we at SITAONAIR, SITA’s connected aircraft service experts, are excited to take this even further by bringing our IFC innovations for passengers and crews to this amazing country.

The SITAONAIR team is immensely proud of its work with India’s air transport and telecommunications community to reach this point. Our engagements with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, network operator BSNL, and many others have served only to increase our interest in this exciting space.

Inflight connectivity presents an incredible opportunity for the economic and digital development of India’s air transport industry. We’re ready and keen to work with ambitious Indian airlines to deliver connectivity in the skies for their passengers.

We know what we’re talking about when we say IFC presents fantastic potential for India’s airlines. SITAONAIR, along with our parent company SITA, has a bigger presence in India than any other player in the IFC space, with over 300 employees, working out of Gurgaon and Mumbai. Our recognized regulatory experience and leadership has been integral in supporting India’s authorities to take the necessary steps to make IFC a reality for its enterprising airline operators.

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Some commentators have questioned whether there is any significant appetite for paid inflight connectivity in India. The argument is that passengers will not pay for Wi-Fi on a flight leg that has cost them only US$20. We need to get real here. These arguments do not recognize the diversity both of the traveling public – their wants, and needs – or of how inflight connectivity looks onboard.

There is no one-size-fits-all pricing solution for IFC. Pricing will be hugely important, as it is all over the world, and we’re well-versed in helping airlines tailor their IFC pricing and packages – whether paid for by the airlines, the passenger or via sponsorship. Indeed, every carrier stands better placed to succeed when they really know their passengers, and shape their inflight offer and business strategy to suit. There is a clear difference, for example, between having high-speed Wi-Fi services for passengers flying business from Delhi to New York and being able to send a quick WhatsApp message on an internal flight at home. SITAONAIR is already delivering tailored types and levels of service to cater to these differing demands, and everything in between, for airlines worldwide.

What’s more – and this is really great news for Indian carriers – SITAONAIR has unrivaled experience of providing inflight connectivity service innovations over multiple satellite bands, avionics and aircraft types, all over the globe. This epitomizes our open cabin philosophy. We champion the right of all airlines to choose the inflight connectivity technologies that work for them. We have worked hard alongside the Indian authorities to ensure that our vision, prioritizing airline choice, would be realized in the DoT’s policy. We are delighted therefore to see that airlines will have the freedom to choose the best solution and technology platforms for them, their fleets and their passengers.

So what’s next? Two things need to happen. To be in-step with the DoT policy, inflight connectivity traffic will need to be diverted through an appropriate gateway on Indian soil. We expect this requirement to be met in the coming months. The second requirement is to ensure the appropriate licenses. For us, this is also in train (watch this space).

SITAONAIR is ready to power India’s IFC age. We’re excited for what the future holds for Indian aviation – come on board!