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British Airways Confirmed As Launch Partner For New In-Flight Wi-Fi Network

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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In-flight Wi-Fi on British Airways moves a step closer with new deal with Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network

The parent company of British Airways will be the launch partner for a brand new European high speed in-flight Wi-Fi network. 

International Airlines Group (IAG), which also operates Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, will equip more than 300 aircraft with the necessary equipment and plans to have 90 percent of its short haul fleet covered by 2019. 

The European Aviation Network (EAN) uses both Inmarsat satellite technology and an LTE ground network operated by Deutsche Telekom – a combination that Inmarsat claims is a world first. 

British Airways Heathrow © Kenneth Iwelumo

In-flight Wi-Fi

Inmarsat’s S-band spectrum licences across all 28 EU member states and will work with 300 LTE sites. Each of these sites will have a range of 80km – eight times the standard range of an LTE site – and is capable of transmitting data at the operating altitude and speed of an aircraft. 

Read More: Is office-grade in-flight Wi-Fi ready for take off? 

It is due to go live later this year after the successful completion of the Satellite Access station (SAS), which acts as a gateway between Inmarsat’s S-band satellite network and the Internet. 

Inmarsat claims its technology will ensure it avoids the pitfalls of other, older systems, which have patch coverage, slow speeds and high latency, to offer an office-grade experience. 

British Airways has long been confirmed as a customer, as has Dutch carrier Lufthansa. 

“Passenger demand for in-flight broadband has never been stronger and Inmarsat’s cutting-edge technology will remain the market’s gold standard for a long time to come,” said Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation. “We look forward to rolling out this ground-breaking service with Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, four of the most iconic brands in commercial aviation.” 

However rival ViaSat says Inmarsat’s spectrum should be reopened to other bids, telling regulator Ofcom and its counterparts elsewhere that the bandwidth is being used for a purpose it was not intended. This unfair advantage, ViaSat claims, could result in the creation of a monopoly in Europe for in-flight Wi-Fi.

“Allowing Inmarsat to keep this valuable spectrum resource for their European Aviation Network terrestrial service results in a massive public subsidy to one company; which gives Inmarsat a natural monopoly with major Pan-European business advantages based on unfair competition,” argued Rick Balbridge, ViaSat COO.

ViaSat believes Inmarsat’s illegal actions will do long-term damage to free competition across Europe – especially in the in-flight Wi-Fi market. The lack of competition will trickle down to affect consumer wallets; choice and broadband experiences: where an absence of industry competition encourages consumer price gouging and a lack of innovation and technological advancement.

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