Wifi in the sky for British Airways passengers

British Airways is in “advanced discussions” to launch inflight Internet service running at true broadband speeds, using a ground-based network of 4G stations in the UK and across Europe. The system would be based on Inmarsat’s new Europasat high-speed communications satellite. “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”. A number of other airlines already have on board internet although it is generally slow and often has no upload capacity which prevents email use. No decision has yet been made on charging or whether to charge at all. Norwegian, for example, makes no charge for its wifi service. Pairing Europasat with a ground-based network similar to that used by smartphones will “will deliver high speed broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers” across Europe, says Inmarsat “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” says Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce. The US$200m Europasat is expected to be delivered for launch at the end of 2016, according to Inmarsat, while its sibling 4G network ground will cost US$200m-$250m.