TRAI Current Affairs

TRAI recommends allowing mobile services during air travel

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended allowing mobile telephony and Internet services for passengers during air travel in country through both satellite and terrestrial network.

TRAI’s recommendation comes on request of Department of Telecom over proposal to introduce voice, data and video services over Indian airspace for domestic, international and overflying flights in Indian air space.

TRAI recommendations

Both Internet and Mobile Communication on Aircraft (MCA) service should be permitted as In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) in the Indian airspace. The MCA services should be permitted with minimum 3000 meters height restriction in Indian airspace for its compatibility with terrestrial mobile networks.

Flexibility to IFC service providers: There should be flexibility to IFC service providers for mobile services in terms of use of technology and frequencies inside aircraft cabin consistent with international standards, provided no harmful interference is caused.

Onboard Wi-Fi: Internet services through Wi-Fi onboard should be made available when electronic devices are permitted to be used only in-flight or airplane mode and announcement regarding this should be made after boarding is completed and the aircraft is about to taxi.

IFC Service Provider: It should be created for IFC services at annual licence fee of Rs. 1 only initially, after entering into an arrangement with telecom licence holder having appropriate authorisation. IFC service provider should be permitted to use either INSAT systems (Indian Satellite System or foreign satellite capacity leased through Department of Space) or foreign satellites outside INSAT systems in the Indian airspace.

Gateway Deployment: It should be in India for an effective mechanism to lawfully intercept and monitor in- cabin Internet traffic while aircraft is in Indian airspace. The onboard Internet traffic must be routed to Satellite Gateway on Indian soil. Routing of traffic through satellite gateway in India should be imposed regardless of whether the satellite in question is an Indian satellite system or not.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

TRAI is an independent regulator of telecommunications business in India. It was established in 1997 through Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997. Its mandate is to regulate telecom services and deliver fair and transparent environment for fair competition in telecom market. TRAI also fixes or revises the tariffs for telecom services in India.

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Telecom Regulatory Authority of India upholds net neutrality

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI ) has upheld the basic principles of an open and free internet in its recommendations on net neutrality.

Net neutrality means that telecom service providers must treat all internet traffic equally, without any regard to the type, origin or destination of the content or the means of its transmission. Proponents of net neutrality hold that all traffic on internet should be treated equally i.e. service providers should allow access to all content without favouring any particular product or website.

TRAI Recommendations

Prohibits Discrimination: It upholds basic principle of net neutrality by keeping Internet open and prohibits any Internet service providers (ISPs) from discrimination on basis of content by either blocking, throttling or fast-laning any websites, apps or web services.

Protection of rights of citizens: The internet use should be facilitated in such manner that it advances free speech rights of citizens, by ensuring plurality and diversity of views, opinions and ideas. It also restrains ISPs from entering into pacts with any person which discriminates on content, protocol or user equipment.

Exemptions: It excludes specialised services and content delivery networks (CDNs) from scope of any rules on net neutrality. It does not define specialised services and leaves it to DoT to identify these services. It also calls for keeping Internet of Things (IoT) within purview of non-discriminatory restriction with the exception of critical services.

It exempt CDNs from the scope of net neutrality rules arguing that CDNs add efficiency to network by reducing latency, mitigating congestion and freeing up network capacity for other purposes. CDNs are layer in Internet networks which are outside public Internet and are used by content generators to store their data at suitable geographical locations.

Setting up Multi-stakeholder body: Telecom and ISPs should deploy “reasonable” traffic management practices from time to time. It calls for setting up multi-stakeholder body to monitor and investigate whether ISPs are adhering to rules.

The body will be led by industry and comprise members representing different telecom and ISPs, large and small content providers, representatives from research, academia, civil society organisations and consumer bodies.

Significance

TRAI’s recommendations follow consultation process that lasted for 1 year, after Department of Telecommunications (DoT) sought TRAI’s views on issue in March 2016 to finalise a viewpoint on net neutrality. These recommendations will now be vetted by DoT and after its approval, changes with effect to licence agreements of telecom firms will be made to accommodate net neutrality. TRAI’s proposal to adhere net neutrality comes days after US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) had announced repealing of 2015 laws that aimed at upholding this broad principle of net neutrality.

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