As Qatar’s national carrier mulls expanding its inflight internet and mobile phone services, the country’s telecommunications regulator has said a license would be required for such a move.
Currently, Qatar Airways offers wireless internet services and SMS/MMS mobile options for a fee on some of its planes. It is seeking to increase its onboard offerings at a time when its regional competitors Emirates and Etihad are also ramping up such services.
According to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (ictQatar), the provision of telecom services onboard Qatar Airways aircraft must adhere to the country’s telecom law, because that’s where the planes are registered.
When contacted for comment by Doha News, a Qatar Airways spokeswoman could not provide more details about the licensing process. IctQatar officials did not immediately respond to questions.
In its working copy of what a license granted to Qatar Airways would look like, ictQatar states:
Customers using the on-board GSM services will be charged as if they were roaming, i.e. in the case of post-pay customers, charges will appear on the invoice that they receive from their ‘home’ mobile service provider, whereas in the case of pre-pay customers, the call charges will be deducted, by their ‘home’ mobile service provider, from the available credit. Customers will be informed of call charges in advance of using the services.
Internet could take the form of LAN or wireless services, it continued:
Customers will be informed of charges in advance of using the Internet service and options exist for a pre-pay or post-pay service. Pre-pay is implemented through a voucher system which enables Internet access for the duration specified on the voucher. In the post-pay scenario, the customer will be invoiced (charges appear on a credit card) according to the duration spent on line.
Before granting a license to the state carrier, the ministry is seeking public feedback on whether such services should be permitted onboard – and what rules should govern usage.
Mobile phone usage aboard planes is a hot topic in many countries, including in the US, where the government is debating lifting a ban on inflight calls.
Such calls used to be prohibited for technical reasons so as not to interrupt aircraft communications, but newer devices make that concern obsolete. Now, the discussion revolves more around whether other plane passengers would be disturbed by the communications.
Those with opinions can send their responses by email before Feb. 20, 2014 to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line of “Consultation: Telecoms Services on-board Aircraft.”
IctQatar will take into account the feedback before making its decision, and intends to publish responses on its website. Here is the full consultation document, including questions for the public:
Would you like to be able to use your phone and the internet while on a Qatar Airways plane? Why or why not?