Fast in-flight WiFi is coming to Europe

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Lufthansa Europe Flights to Get Web Access in Inmarsat Deal.

But one of the last havens of peace for mobile users is set to come to an end, after Lufthansa signed a deal allowing passengers to use their handsets on board from next summer.The move is part of a wider push by Lufthansa to upgrade its service to stem its loss of long-haul business to Middle East rivals and traffic within Europe to budget carriers.

Europe’s passengers are set to get Web access on planes through a deal by satellite operator Inmarsat Plc and phone carrier Deutsche Telekom AG, as the companies seek to work with airline customers such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG. And other airlines including British Airways are expected to follow the German carrier’s example, making mobile usage the norm on all European flights by the summer of 2017.

Inmarsat will combine its satellites with a Deutsche Telekom ground network to provide high-speed Internet to air travelers, according to a statement from Inmarsat on Monday. Under the plans unveiled today, passengers will be able to check their emails, log onto Facebook and send instant messages on board aircraft, at the same sorts of speeds as they do on the ground. The German carrier will “offer its guests an Internet-surfing experience boasting the same quality and speed as they are used to at home,” said Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr.

The airline will equip about 180 Airbus Group SE A320 single-aisle jets to deliver the new service from the middle of next year, and eventually introduce onboard Wi-Fi on narrowbody planes for its sister airlines, Mr. While US airlines including JetBlue Airways already offer in-flight Internet access, taking off in Europe has so far largely meant being cut off from the Web. The idea is likely to fill many travellers with horror – whether at the thought that they will be unable to escape the demands of their office, or that they will find themselves trapped next to a passenger that spends the whole journey talking. Four in ten Internet users would like to surf the Web while on board a plane, German digital-industry group Bitkom said last month, citing a poll it conducted with 1,014 people in Germany.

But Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, the satellite company behind the scheme, said that there is an enormous appetite amongst younger travellers who want to remain plugged in to the internet throughout their entire journey. ‘My kids are in their twenties and there would be absolutely no hesitation on their part,’ he said. ‘I share [the view that mobile usage on planes could be intrusive]. Deutsche Telekom will build and operate about 300 sites using high-speed LTE technology to link with Inmarsat’s satellites to provide full coverage and capacity in the high-density European airspace. But we’ve just got to learn to use the off switch.’ Lufthansa has already said it will block services like Skype, to stop talkative travellers from annoying their neighbours – but Mr Mondale has admitted that noisy phone calls will become a feature on some airlines.

Certain airlines in the US have already experimented with internet access, but the Inmarsat service on European flights will be at around 10 times faster. Having equipped all planes in the Lufthansa intercontinental fleet with our successful FlyNet® system, we are now continuing our success story by providing Internet on board our short and medium-haul flights. They have been slower to emerge in Europe because of the complexity of the region’s multiple jurisdictions. “We are deploying enough capacity so the user experience will be similar” to the fourth-generation, or fast terrestrial, mobile-phone experience, Mr. British Airways has yet to sign up to the scheme, but it has agreed a formal ‘memorandum of understanding’ with Inmarsat and is in advanced talks to introduce the scheme.

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