Lufthansa to trial inflight high-speed internet for passengers

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Lufthansa Europe Flights to Get Web Access in Inmarsat Deal.

High-speed internet access via smartphones could become a feature on European airline flights following a deal involving the German carrier Lufthansa – but voice calls will be blocked at first.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. The companies claim their venture, which combines ground-based mobile broadband networks and the nascent satellite networks already used on some planes, will permit a more reliable, faster connection than passengers currently experience.

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.

Although Lufthansa is the only airline trialling the network so far, Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom claim it will eventually provide sufficient capacity for planes across Europe’s flightpaths. 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 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.

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. 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]. While U.S. airlines including JetBlue Airways Corp. already offer in-flight Internet access, taking off in Europe has so far largely meant being cut off from the Web.

Four in ten Internet users would like to surf the Web while on board a plane, German digital-industry group Bitkom said in August, citing a poll it conducted with 1,014 people in Germany. Deutsche Telekom will build a new mobile broadband network of approximately 300 masts with a far greater range than most conventional sites, able to transmit data over a range of 80km and to the operating altitude of passenger planes. 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. Once the plane is at an altitude of more than 10,000 feet, the ground-based network would work alongside Inmarsat’s satellite, which would in effect fill in gaps in the coverage – with switching between signals managed in the plane.

Inmarsat said it will use a combination of different technologies to relay its signals at 4G speeds, and that it will continually update them to keep pace with advances for normal broadband usage. The U.K. satellite operator also announced a tie-up with Deutsche Telekom to jointly develop the so-called European Aviation Network, which will combine satellite connectivity with an air-to-ground broadband network.

Its Accountability Office said that would-be attackers could exploit new vulnerabilities: “This interconnectedness can potentially provide unauthorised remote access to aircraft avionics systems.” 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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