Sunday - Apr 30, 2017

British Airways are reported to be in advanced negotiations with global satellite network operators Inmarsat to provide in-flight internet


British Airways are reported to be in advanced negotiations with global satellite network operators Inmarsat to provide in-flight internet

British Airways are reportedly anxious to be among the first airlines to take advantage of the Inmarsat project that will see them launch the European Union-wide aviation service by 2016, with all that is required is necessary regulatory clearances from the 28-member states.

If all goes according to plan, BA will be amongst the first airlines to be offering fast Internet access to all of their European short-haul routes.

In order to provide sufficient power, the proposed service, Inmarsat have made clear their intentions to invest up to a maximum of $450 million to construct a hybrid system which will involve hooking up to both satellite and mobile phone networks. The air-to-ground technology will cover aircraft flying over land, with the satellite filling in gaps over sea.

Inmarsat, have long been looking upon the success that is being enjoyed by US aviation communications service providers, particularly Gogo who provide inclusive inflight WiFi to US airlines on their domestic routes. AT&T, the massive US telecoms company, but also reportedly interested in getting onto the bandwagon, planning to launch a similar service to that offered by Gogo within the next 12 months.

According to a senior executive of Inmarsat, the company has a strong belief that the same in-flight connectivity opportunity now been provided to US domestic flight passengers will also be compatible in Europe. With the support of EU telecoms regulators, “Inmarsat can rapidly bring to market, unique, high-speed aviation passenger connectivity services, on an EU-wide basis” the spokesman summed up.

While Internet access on aircraft has been available on domestic and international flights for the last ten years, reception in-flight has been generally ponderous at best, with the range of services provided by airlines varying considerably.

For the moment, British Airways only provide its passengers with text, email and Internet access on just two of the aircraft in their massive fleet, and these are business class-only flights between London’s City airport and New York.

A spokesperson for British Airways announced that the airline plans to start of their Wi-Fi service initially on its domestic routes, and look forward to providing the customers with levels of Internet access that they have gotten used to on the ground while in the air.

Inmarsat have already stated that its planned service on European short-haul routes should be strong enough to support reasonably rapid download speeds, opening the door to business travellers to communicate with the world through their Smartphones, tablets and laptops. Once testing gets underway, Immarsat will be able to provide information on whether their WI-Fi service would have sufficient capacity to support in-flight phone calls, although individual regulators and airlines will agree to this.

As well as BA, Inmarsat is also reported to be in talks with five other European airlines about using their service on short-haul routes, while plans are progressing on a separate plan for the launch of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress service, a communications system that is due to launch during 2014 that will provide internet access during international flights.

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