British Airways is in talks with communications satellite firm Inmarsat to become the initial customer for the first pan-European high-speed air-to-ground internet service.
Negotiations are at an “advanced stage,” with British Airways planning to introduce the technology on UK domestic routes, the companies have confirmed in a statement.
“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,” said Inmarsat chief executive Rupert Pearce.
“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.”
To reduce initial programme costs, Inmarsat and Hellas-Sat, a non-competing European satellite operator, have contracted with Thales Alenia Space for the construction of a satellite on a shared basis, with each partner retaining exclusive rights to a separate payload.
Kate Thornton, head of product and service at British Airways, commented: “British Airways is in discussions with Inmarsat about leading Europe in a new era of broadband in the air.
“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.”
Inmarsat will deploy a unique integrated telecommunications network delivering aviation passenger connectivity across the EU.
The company has placed an order for a new S-band satellite, called Europasat, and expects to complement this satellite with a fully integrated air-to-ground network across the European Union.
Inmarsat’s new aviation network will deliver high-speed broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers across the continent.
These capabilities will be offered alongside Inmarsat’s Global Xpress aviation services, extending Inmarsat’s service coverage for European aviation passengers seamlessly across the rest of the globe.