UK SATELLITE FIRM Inmarsat has announced plans to bring high-speed WiFi to European flights, with British Airways already in talks with the firm to deploy it.
In a bid to bring Europe in line with the US, Inmarsat announced plans to launch a new S-band satellite, called Europsat on Thursday, which will provide a hybrid infrastructure that also includes direct air-to-ground links over the 30Mhz S-band spectrum delivering 4G connections across the 28 member states of the European Union (EU).
As well as bringing high-speed connections to flights, Inmarsat claims that Europsat will also support next generation emergency network services for public protection and disaster relief.
Inmarsat said that it has "already commenced the licencing process with EU Member States in order to allow timely deployment of the new aviation services" and has already seen "strong support" from EU regulators, with the service expected to go live at the end of 2016.
Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said, "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."
Pearce went on to add that the firm is already in talks with British Airways, which likely will be among the first to offer the in-flight WiFi to its customers.
"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," he added.
British Airways head of Product and Service Kate Thornton 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." µ