In-flight WiFi could arrive on BA’s European flights in 2016.
Talks between the world’s former favourite airline and satellite broadband provider Inmarsat could see passengers able to carry on checking emails and posting holiday brag photos instead of having to turn on airplane mode before takeoff.
Once it’s up in the air, the service will eventually see all of BA’s flights throughout the EU covered, but UK domestic routes would be covered first.
Inmarsat’s new Europasat satellite uses S-band technology, which uses small mobile antennas that can be easily fitted onto a plane or a car.
Customers have traditionally been asked to turn their phones off or enable airplane mode – shutting off all of a phone’s radios – for fear of interfering with a plane’s instruments.
The amount of power required to deliver 3G signals to a phone from a cell towers is thought to be a source of interference. By allowing phones to communicate with a picocell built into a plane, which will then communicate with satellites, interference will be lessened as the picocell requires less power.
Europasat isn’t due to launch until late 2016, meaning we won’t see in-flight WiFi on BA planes for a couple of years at the earliest.
The launch of in-flight WiFi in the US has been a success with AT&T now competiting with Gogo’s services.
Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat’s CEO hopes that a deal with BA will spark similar competition in Europe. 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.
“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.”