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Long-haul passengers aboard an A330 airliner operated by Garuda Indonesia will soon be able to use their mobile devices foremailings, text messages, phone calls, and Internet surfing. That’s because OnAir has been contracted to provide inflight mobile phone and Wi-Fi services to Garuda’s fleet later this year.
Garuda is the national carrier of Indonesia. It has tapped OnAir to deliver Mobile OnAir and Internet OnAir services across its 28-strong fleet of A330 airliners. The OnAir equipment will be retrofitted onto Garuda’s current A330 fleet starting November, and will be linefitted to the 21 new aircraft that the Indonesian carrier has recently ordered from Airbus
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Singapore Airlines will be spending US$50 million to deliver satellite Internet and mobile data services to passengers 35,000 feet in the air via its In-Flight Connectivity program.
In-Flight Connectivity enjoyed a recent soft launch on a select number of Singapore Airlines aircraft. It is currently provided aboard 14 aircraft. This includes the fleet’s five Airbus A340-500s, which serve on some of the world’s longest non-stop flights.
Singapore Airlines have also extended In-Flight Connectivity to Australia (for which SA only recently obtained regulatory approvals) and other, previously untouched markets.
Passengers will be able to use their laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices to surf the Internet and attend to emails. They can also send and receive SMS text messages using GSM-compatible mobile phones. (The Airbus A380s, however, have yet to offer mobile data and text services.)
Internet connectivity provider OnAir serves as Singapore Airlines’ partner in the latter’s In-Flight Connectivity program. The plan for the next two years is to roll out satellite Internet and wireless technology across the fleet’s long-haul aircraft, a mix of Airbus A380-800, A340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER.
In-Flight Connectivity will be accessible on routes serviced by equipped aircraft. A map that shows these routes is available on KrisWorld, an in-flight entertainment magazine published by Singapore Airlines. Individual countries must give regulatory approval to the service.
Singapore Airline is also introducing promotional price plans for its wireless Internet access. 30 megabytes of data will cost US$25 while 10 megabytes will require US$10. These promotional prices will last until November 30, 2012.
Inflight Internet users can look forward to blinding speeds of up to 80Mbps by 2015 thanks to a series of satellites planned by Intelsat.
The quality of inflight Internet services depends on its location. For example, within the US, it is reasonably swift, being able to take advantage of powerful ground-based wireless stations. Elsewhere, planes need to rely upon satellites for tenuous connectivity and slow speeds.
However, the new -and aptly named- Epic satellite platform by Intelsat aims to massively boost speeds. Previous satellites deployed fixed transmitters that could only cover a certain area. However, Intelsat’s Epic satellites use spot-beam technology that allow them to aim their transmitters and receivers at highly-trafficked areas.
The initial Epic satellite will cover the heavily-trafficked US-Europe routes across the North Atlantic. Wider coverage become available once the second Epic satellite reaches operational status in early 2016. Faster Internet by satellite is expected to roll out to the north and west of Singapore soon afterwards.
Unfortunately, truly fast Internet from satellite is not likely to make any early appearances on Australian routes such as the shorter Australasian leg of the Kangaroo Route to Europe or early parts of Asia-bound flights. This gap in inflight Internet is due to the unique geographical boundaries determined by Australia’s “red centre.”
Business travelers flying out of Australia will still get the opportunity to sleep during flights staging to an Asian hub before going to work during the following flight to Europe thanks to the improved inflight satellite Internet. Many airlines flying from and around the continent are already hopping onto the inflight Internet bandwagon. Things can only go up from there as other satellite communication companies follow Intelsat’s lead.
In many remote regions, terrestrial infrastructure for communications is not advisable. Areas like the deserts, far-flung mountain provinces and uninhabited islands are locations where traditional wired communications infrastructure like fibre is impossible to build. Even if one plans to build terrestrial infrastructure, the environmental risk will offset the viability.
Satellite broadband systems offer communities in remote regions access to wireless broadband services without the need for fibre optics or even cell sites. The main concern has always been the cost. Since satellite broadband relies on a system thousands of kilometers above the earth, it’s considered one of the more expensive broadband platforms.
However, the advent of VSAT technology and teleport facilities, has enabled companies offering satellite broadband to reduce the costs. These ground-based facilities not only make satellite broadband services more affordable, but also improved the overall wireless capacity.
In fact, satellite broadband download speed can be as much as 2 Mbit/s, with an upload speed of up to 1 MBit/s, which is almost 35 times as fast as the average dial-up connection. Rural folks can now have access to the Internet, without worrying about geographic constraints.
The satellite broadband signals can either be one-way or two-way. The technology works best in clear areas where there are no major obstructions. Combined with wireless Teleport services and terrestrial Internet channels like DSL, satellite internet is becoming a more viable alternative in connecting hard-to-reach locations with the rest of the world.