In-flight WiFi takes off through satellite technology

A new alliance aims to make in-flight WiFi connectivity available globally to travelers.

In the latest pact announced within the aviation industry, Honeywell Aerospace and satellite operator Inmarsat have agreed to a new partnership which will aim to provide WiFi services to consumers.

The companies officially announced the agreement in the hope of bringing better speeds, reliable connectivity and streaming services to passengers who have tablets, smartphones or laptops worldwide in transatlantic flights by the use of satellite technology.

According to Honeywell Aerospace and Inmarsat, by combining satellite communication capabilities with Inmarsat's Global Xpress connectivity, the new services will result in travelers being able to quickly and seamlessly get online. For business passengers, this means they could connect to social media, conduct video conferences and watch presentations in-flight.

"With this new service, the flow of information will no longer stop when the door to the aircraft closes," Tim Mahoney, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Aerospace said within the announcement.

"Honeywell identified global aircraft connectivity as a future growth trend, and through the combination of the recently acquired EMS Technologies, Inc.'s broad technology offerings and Honeywell's global aerospace franchise, the company is the perfect partner to launch the Inmarsat Global Xpress aerospace network.

We believe this new network will significantly expand the connectivity options of consumer, business, and government customers around the world."

Inmarsat, which will invest $1.2 billion, will launch the first of three new satellites for its Global Xpress Network in 2013, with global service for commercial, business aviation, and government customers predicted to launch in 2014. Honeywell will provide hardware, services and maintenance worth $2.8 billion.

In-flight WiFi is not a new concept, and several thousand U.S. aircraft offer the service. However, as most connectivity speeds currently available peak at approximately 3MB a second due to ground-based systems supporting flights, the new satellite-based service is expected to go beyond this, and offer up to 50MB in comparison.

By 2016, it is predicted there will be over 10 billion mobile devices in use across the globe, and data traffic demand will rise -- 71 percent of which will be used to stream media including video. As the world becomes more interconnected and consumers expect to be able to remain 'connected' in transit, commercial airline companies are beginning to take this into consideration in order to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Image credit: Ben Outram


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