Broadband India Forum (BIF), in its submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on its consultation paper titled ‘Data Communications between Aircraft and Ground Stations’, has stated that the move is strategic in nature and falls under the category of critical communications. Captive network-based services (such as captive non-public network – CNPN and captive mobile radio trunking service) are being regulated through light touch licencing regimes. Since ‘Data Communication Services between Aircrafts and Ground Stations’ is similar to a captive network and the spectrum allotted is used entirely for the strategically vital communications between the aircraft and ground stations and is not part of any public communication service (PSTN/PLMN) or the public internet service, hence, it should be permitted under a service licence similar to that of the already notified CNPN licence and should be a ‘light touch’ one.

That said, BIF does not recommend auctioning of the spectrum and recommends that the desired spectrum band 117.975 MHz to 137 MHz be assigned administratively with suitable power/emission limits to ensure protection of other co-primary and secondary users in the same band. This is based on global best practices, world over.

Commenting on the issue, TV Ramachandran, President, BIF, said, “Since captive networks have now been permitted under a gazette notified standalone CNPN licence with the provision of direct assignment of spectrum through administrative manner, similar regulatory dispensation can be awarded to this strategic segment of vital data communications between the cockpit of the aircraft and the control tower. However, no commercial communication services should be permitted inside the aircraft “.