Will maritime vessels get connectivity services similar to aircraft’s IFC?

Providing connectivity services to maritime vessels will open up voice and data services for passenger and sailors and it will also improve vessels efficiency

The government has given a go ahead for Inflight Connectivity (IFC) and it is expected to be operational soon as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has called for a meeting of all stakeholders on May 14 to discuss the licensing framework of Inflight connectivity (IFC).

The stakeholders meeting will see participation from all airlines registered in India, VSAT operators and mobile operators. The DoT has also asked representation from Ministry of Shipping for May 14 meeting and so this piece of information is not only limiting connectivity to airlines industry but it looks as if the focus is also on providing connectivity services to maritime vessels.

We can only hope that by adding maritime services in the common framework would not cause undue delays in the creating the policy framework for maritime services as lot of consultations on Inflight Services is already there in public domain.

The government is planning for a separate category of licensee called in-flight connectivity provider shall be created with a token license fee of Re. 1. Such facility of voice and data connectivity shall also be extended to ships and other moving vehicles (earth stations in motion).

There are over 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo but there is no concrete data available on how many of them sail through Indian waters. India has also a long coastline of 5,560 Km having access to the sea on three sides with 11 major and 168 minor/intermediate ports and this opens up new opportunities as government is focusing in a big way with respect to inland waterways.

In conclusion, one needs to think whether the policy makers are even open for providing broadband access on trains and cars in future as there is also a requirement for these services in future. Licensing framework of connectivity services should also include all these services so that the industry need not go through the entire consultation process of TRAI for providing broadband services to vehicles on the move be it vessels or trains.