British Airways passengers to access Wi-Fi in the sky

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British Airways and the London based satellite company Inmarsat are in advanced talks to offer Wi-Fi for passengers on board.

The service is expected to be rolled out by the end of 2016 for the domestic flights and will be gradually introduced in flights to other countries in the European Union later.

Kate Thornton, head of Product and Service at British Airways said, “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.”

Currently, users are requested to switch off their mobile devices or turn on airplane mode, which disconnects the device from all networks, as the radio signals to the mobile phones might interrupt the communication between the plane and the ground station.

To enable the service, Inmarsat will develop picocells into plane which will connect the devices and satellites without interrupting the planes’ signals.

Inmarsat is investing $250 million to establish a ground network and another $250 million to build and launch an S-band satellite dubbed Europasat which will be used for providing Wi-Fi access for customers in planes. Inmarsat licensed this spectrum in 2009 from the European Commission.

The satellite to-be-built will use the S-band technology which can connect to small antennas appropriate for cars, planes and other transportation.

Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said “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.”

He also added that many other European airlines also have plans to introduce this service and that Inmarsat is “delighted to announce advanced discussions with British Airways”.