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Wi-Fi in the sky looks set for takeoff

03 March 2014, 13:27

Singapore - Wi-Fi in aircraft, hobbled in the past by slow speeds, could soon take off as new technology enables passengers to surf the web as if they were in a coffee shop, internet executives say.

More airlines are rolling out new and improved services thanks to satellite technology, industry leaders said at the recent Singapore Airshow, with the public increasingly demanding Wi-Fi on planes.

US-based Honeywell Aerospace and Gogo, which supply inflight connectivity systems to airlines, are collaborating with satellite giant Inmarsat to implement the "first global high-speed broadband for the skies" dubbed the Global Xpress (GX) Aviation network.

Briand Greer, president of Honeywell Aerospace Asia Pacific, said inflight Wi-Fi could generate $2.8bn for the company alone over the next 20 years.

He estimates that around seven to eight percent of airlines currently offer wireless connection, but says this number is expected to grow to 25% by 2018.

After years of being bogged down by weak demand due to poor signal quality, inflight Wi-Fi can now enable download speeds of up to 50 megabits per second, Greer said.

"How we describe it is it will be like you are sitting at Starbucks with your smartphone, your computer and your iPad," Greer told reporters.

Onboard Wi-Fi is not a new idea - European carrier Lufthansa debuted Conexxion by Boeing's system in 2004.

But by 2006 the company announced its exit after the expected growth in the market did not materialise.

Recent surveys by Airbus and Honeywell, however, suggest that the market might now be ready as passengers increasingly expect airlines to have inflight wireless services.



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