Singapore Airlines (SIA) has announced plans to offer in-flight web and mobile connection services from the first half of 2011, years after it ended a Wi-Fi trial first unveiled in 2005.
Its collaboration with in-flight connectivity provider OnAir will include a suite of on-board communication offerings, such as Wi-Fi internet and mobile telephony services, where passengers can send and receive text messages on smartphones and BlackBerry devices.
As for mobile phone calls, SIA said it will review the option before the launch of the connectivity service.
The mobile telephony service will be charged to the user's monthly telco bills where international roaming rates will apply, while internet services may be purchased with an access package. SIA has yet to reveal data charges and plans.
The in-flight connectivity service will be rolled out on flights operated by the Airbus 380, Airbus 340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
Yap Kim Wah, SIA's senior vice president of product and services, said in a statement: "Today, with the increasing importance of remaining connected and the more affordable charges made possible by the higher usage and more advanced technology, we are now fitting all our long-range aircraft with the full suite of telephony and internet features so that our customers can stay connected.
"Unlike the earlier trial introduction of an internet service, this suite of features is for full implementation and we are pleased to offer this as an added choice to our in-flight program," Yap added.
The Singapore carrier offered in-flight Wi-Fi access in 2005, but the trial service was halted when provider Connexion by Boeing shut down a year later.
OnAir CEO Ian Dawkins said: "The agreement is extremely significant. It sends a strong signal to the industry that in-flight passenger communications has come of age, and is a must-have for airlines looking to remain competitive in the future."
Low-cost carrier AirAsia last week also announced a partnership with Malaysian telco, Maxis Communications and OnAir to provide mobile telephony and data roaming services on selected flights. Currently, only four of its 96 planes are GSM-enabled to support the service during the trial.
Maxis users will have to fork out US$3.54 (AU$3.64) per minute for calls, US$0.65 (AU$0.67) per SMS, and US$8 (AU$8.23) per megabyte for data access.
AirAsia also revealed that plans are in the pipeline to expand the in-flight connectivity service to its long-haul flights operated by AirAsia X.
In an interview with ZDNet Asia in July, CEO Azra Osman-Rani said costs remain a major concern for the airline, noting that "if it costs more than the typical internet service fees that hotels charge, we won't launch it".
Other airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Emirates will offer similar in-flight connectivity services from 2012.
Via ZDNet Asia