(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/Sjoerd van der Wal)
Select airlines owned by the International Airlines Group (IAG) – including British Airways – will soon be equipped with a hybrid satellite and 4G broadband service for customers on short-haul flights.
Inmarsat will be providing the infrastructure behind the announcement to enable improved air-to-ground connectivity around Europe. The deal between IAG and Inmarsat has been in the making for around two years.
Leo Mondale, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “The European Aviation Network is a game changer for the millions of airline passengers that have been cut-off from fast, reliable and consistent broadband access during flights in Europe.”
“It will provide IAG airlines with unprecedented high-speed capacity by combining the strengths of Inmarsat’s satellite connectivity with a powerful ground network operated by our partner Deutsche Telekom. We look forward to working with Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling on the rollout.”
341 of IAG’s fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft will be fitted with the services beginning in 2017 across four airlines – 132 British Airways, 125 Vueling, 45 Iberia and 39 Aer Lingus planes. The airline giant wants 90 percent of its aircraft equipped by 2019.
The first short-haul aircraft equipped with WiFi connectivity – a British Airways A321 – will be in service next summer. IAG claims the service will provide customers with the internet access they expect on the ground with bandwidth capacity to use multiple devices at the same time and connection speeds similar to what they have at home.
“We are giving our customers the fastest connectivity you can get on any aircraft,” said IAG chief executive Willie Walsh. “Having announced WiFi for long-haul flights earlier this year, we are now equipping our airlines’ short-haul fleets with in-flight broadband access.
“Connectivity is essential because it is what our customers demand and IAG will be the first European airline group to offer high-quality air-to-ground WiFi on short-haul flights.”
Inmarsat will be using its dedicated European Aviation Network (EAN) to provide connectivity for IAG’s passengers. EAN is a hybrid network built in partnership with Deutsche Telekom which plans to use the soon-to-be-launched S-band Europasat-Hellas3 satellite in combination with a ground-based 4G long-term evolution (LTE) network.
Combining both satellite and 4G forms of connectivity should – in theory – provide increased capacity for traffic-dense European routes to provide much better speed and reliability than most long-haul flights which cross oceans and have little access to ground-based connection options.
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