If you're flying and want to send emails or use broadband data while in-flight, British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat has announced a new programme of sorts for airplanes that'll eventually allow aviation passengers to get online EU-wide.
Inmarsat's Wi-Fi connectivity services will be provided by an air-to-ground network as well as a S-band satellite called Europasat. Specifically, the London-based firm said it would connect airplanes to the internet via cellphone towers on the ground that point skyward. The Europasat satellite will then modify the system in order to ensure constant connectivity between towers. The result? Passengers will have uninterrupted Wi-Fi service during flights around the globe.
Inmarsat, which earned global notoriety after sharing satellite data of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's path in March, said planes using the S-band satellite and ground-to-air network will transition to its Global Xpress service when they leave European airspace. Also, construction costs for Europasat will be shared by operator Hellas-Sat (which plans to use the satellite for piping television to homes) and everything should launch by the end of 2016.
Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat’s chief executive officer, admitted in a press release that North America is ahead of the game in terms of in-flight passenger connectivity services. He even referred to Gogo's air-to-ground network and AT&T's rival service in the US, but he also predicted in-flight connectivity will be a multi-billion dollar business by 2020 and that the same growth is poised for Europe.
"With the support of EU telecoms regulators, Inmarsat can rapidly bring to market unique, high speed aviation passenger connectivity services to meet this market demand on an EU-wide basis. A number of European airlines are aligned with this vision and we are absolutely delighted to announce advanced discussions with British Airways to be a launch customer on our new aviation network.”
Not only will Inmarsat's programme bring connectivity services to in-flight passengers in the EU, according to Pearce, but it will also dramatically increase the capacity of Wi-Fi connections while simultaneously reducing the cost of Wi-Fi tariffs offered by airlines.