British Airways To Offer In-Flight Wi-Fi Powered By Inmarsat

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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Inmarsat to launch new satellite aimed at supporting European in-flight Wi-Fi

British Airways is to become one of the first airlines to offer in-flight Wi-Fi using a new S-band satellite called Europasat, operated by UK-based firm Inmarsat, which will go live in 2016 with the intent of serving the European aviation market.

The airline will initially offer in-flight Wi-Fi on domestic routes before expanding the service across Europe as the network grows and more regulatory approval is received. Last year, UK regulator Ofcom paved the way for satellite Wi-Fi on aircraft by proposing to relax existing rules.

“British Airways is in discussions with Inmarsat about leading Europe in a new era of broadband in the air,” says Kate Thornton, head of product and service at British Airways. “Starting with UK domestic routes Inmarsat intends to deploy Europe’s first ground-based 4G broadband network giving our customers the Internet access they expect on the ground while in the air.”

BA in-flight Wi-Fi

British Airways Heathrow © Kenneth IwelumoInmarsat’s aviation network deployment will use its existing European authorisation to operate integrated satellite-terrestrial communications in 30MHz spectrum across the EU’s 28 member states.

The company is working on securing additional licenses within the EU and says there is “strong support” for its applications and a consistent framework can be agreed soon. Once this approval has been granted, Inmarsat will work on expanding its ground network deployment.

Inmarsat is sharing the cost of manufacturing, launching and operating Europasat with Hellas-Sat, with each partner receiving exclusive rights to a separate payload. Each firm will pay between $200 million and $250 million.

Inmarsat will spend the same amount on its ground network over the next six years as it seeks to cope on the growing demand for in-flight Wi-Fi, which is already offered by some US airlines and Qantas in Australia.The network can also be used for public protection and emergency disaster relief.

“We believe that the same in-flight connectivity opportunity exists in Europe and that, 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,” says Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce.

“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.”

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