In-flight Wi-Fi needs a simple cybersecurity framework

Civil Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey said on Friday India was the only country other than North Korea to not allow Wi-Fi facility in aircraft, while hitting out at security agencies for being “unidimensional.” While expressing his frustration over the delay in home ministry in giving its nod, he called for innovative solutions to make airports more viable.

“India is perhaps the only country other than North Korea, which does not allow in-flight Wi-Fi services. Even international airlines flying over India have to switch off Wi-Fi when they travel over India…security agencies are still not convinced,” he said.

While addressing a seminar on international aviation security organised by NSG, Choubey said the cost of security was bleeding the airport operators financially. The Indian Air Force controlled two-thirds of Delhi’s airspace, causing flights to hover above for long, which led to the wastage of fuel and escalated airfare, and that “civil aviation needs to be harmonised with the IAF”.

Before airlines in India can be permitted to provide Wi- Fi, the prerequisite laid down by the government is for intercept capability to which Indian authorities have end-to- end audit and control. “From our perspective, this is not very different from what we see at many jurisdictions where cyber security or use of information technology for a malicious purpose is an area of concern. The Indian government has demanded a framework at par with international standards. These are solutions that are neither unseen nor unimplemented,” said David Lavorel, CEO, SITAONAIR.

Meanwhile, in-flight Wi-Fi companies say all the government needs is a simple cybersecurity framework to allay fear of cyber attacks that’s preventing Wi-Fi on flights. These frameworks sought by the authorities are neither impossible nor unusual.

In order to get a first-hand experience of how Wi-Fi is enabled on a plane, PTI recently travelled onboard Honeywell’s Connected Aircraft, which was in New Delhi last week as part of its world tour. Since May this year, it has travelled to Dallas, Mexico City, Panama City, Toronto, New York, London and Paris. For in-flight Wi-Fi, Honeywell’s satellite communications hardware is fitted on the aircraft so it can receive true broadband class connectivity via Inmarsat satellites, whose Global Xpress Service is powered by three Ka-band satellites and claim to provide four times the bandwidth available through Ku-band.

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