Inflight movies in doubt as Wi-Fi takes off in the skies

Inflight movies in doubt as Wi-Fi takes off in the skies
A man using his laptop with the in-flight Wi-Fi services.
PHOTO: Reuters

Airlines may soon ditch their in-flight entertainment systems as new networks allow passengers improved access to the internet, according to the telecommunications satellite firm, Inmarsat.

This week sees the launch of the company's European Aviation Network (EAN) satellite, which the firm says will deliver 100 of megabits per second to devices such as tablet and phones.

Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said that could revolutionize the way people entertain themselves in the air:

"For long haul there are a lot of people speculating whether inflight entertainment, those big heavy costly systems, will survive once customers can entertain themselves.

"It is a big cost to airlines that could be removed in future," said Pearce, Monday.

The Inmarsat chief said industry research showed both standard and business travellers were hungry to access Wi-Fi during flights.

"Surveys show that people would rather have Wi-Fi than eat, people would rather have Wi-Fi than arrive on time, or be put together with their bags at the end of the journey.

"I find that extraordinary but the reality is people are welded to their devices, they want connectivity and they are prepared to pay up for it, even for a flight of an hour or two hours," he added.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show last Wednesday, Honeywell's president of mechanical systems and components business, Bob Smith, agreed that demand for in air connectivity is certain.

"We have found in serial studies that people would trade many, many things that you would think were untradeable.

"I mean leg room; they would trade leg room which is already bad for a better flying Wi-Fi experience. There is an insatiable demand for more bandwidth," he added.

This month US rival satellite firm, Viasat, launched a Boeing built satellite to be stationed above the Americas.

Smith said this will improve the connection for US. Flyers who often see their Wi-Fi drop out as they fly across country away from the East towards Western states that have fewer cell towers.

Paying for your connection

International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, will be the launch customer for the new European network.

Inmarsat has a contract directly with IAG who will then form their own model for charging passengers.

The German carrier Lufthansa will also carry the technology but passengers looking to connect in the air will enter a contract with Inmarsat directly who say they will charge 5 euros per flight.

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