Panasonic’s Nelco tie-up will make Vistara first Indian airline with WiFi onboard

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Panasonic has announced a deal with India’s Nelco to provide inflight communication (IFC) solutions to airlines in India. Almost simultaneously, Vistara announced its intentions to be the first airline in the country to offer inflight WiFi through a tie-up with Panasonic.

Vistara will become the first Indian airline to offer inflight WiFi. Photo: Vistara

The deal makes Panasonic the first satellite communications company to start inflight connectivity operations in India under the Nelco  Department of Telecommunications license for In-Flight and Maritime Connectivity (IFMC). This means that Panasonic and its ITC Global subsidiary now has the green light to begin offering connectivity to ships and aircraft operating in India.

Ken Sain, Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics Corporation commented on the announcement, saying,

“Becoming the first satellite communications provider to offer services over India is a major milestone for Panasonic. We are delighted to be partnering with Nelco, and are proud to offer our valued customers the ability to change the way people stay connected in flight, at sea and in remote locations around the world.”

The first Nelco partnership

Nelco, a company operating under the umbrella of the behemoth Tata Group, is a leading VSAT solutions provider, and is the first Indian company to provide inflight WiFi in the nation. The project, named Aero In-Flight Communication (IFC) services, will be the company’s first tie up with a global IFC provider to furnish airlines with IFC provision.

From the announcement, we can see that Panasonic will be responsible for the integration services, while Nelco will deliver ground station servies as well as the satellite capacity necessary. The satellite servies will be delivered by ISRO’s GSAT 14 Ku-band capacity, at least in India, while flights traveling outside of Indian airspace will be able to leverage Panasonic’s extensive Ku-band network.

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The tie-up will allow passengers to roam on their mobiles as well as access the service directly. Photo: Vistara

Nelco Managing Director and CEO, P J Nath, commented on the partnership, saying,

“We are delighted that Nelco is spearheading in providing the long-awaited Aero IFC services in the country, marking the beginning of a new chapter in passenger services for the aviation sector in India. We are also very happy that we have forged the partnership with Panasonic Avionics in serving their customers. We foresee a great opportunity for growth in the IFC services in the country in the coming years and intend to be a leader in this market”.

Realizing Vistara’s dream

For long enough, Vistara has been vying to become the first airline in India to offer full onboard WiFi services. Now, with Panasonic gearing up to begin service, it looks like Vistara’s dream will come true. Vinod Kannan, Chief Commercial Officer at Vistara, expressed his excitement over this milestone in Indian IFC, saying,

“As Vistara inches closer to launching long-haul international operations and becomes a global brand, our steadfast effort is to provide a truly world-class service to our customers to and from India. Our partnership with Panasonic in providing a state-of-the-art IFE system and satellite connectivity is a step in that direction, and we are confident that it will further elevate the five-star flying experience that Vistara is renowned for.”

vistara 787
Vistara is poised to accept its first Dreamliner next week. Photo: Boeing

Vistara is the first airline to sign up for the new service from Panasonic and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Vistara is gearing up to receive its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner next week, on March 2nd, which will allow it to launch long haul flights from India. The 787s will arrive IFC equipped, and new Airbus A321neos will also be ready to switch on once those start delivering.

It’s a huge milestone for both Vistara and Panasonic. Both Global Eagle and Inmarsat were vying to be first to the market in India, but their deals with Jet Airways and SpiceJet went south for different reasons. Jet has been effectively bankrupt for almost a year now, and SpiceJet planned to debut the IFC on its incoming fleet of Boeing 737 MAX, which remain grounded likely until mid-year.

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