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Wendy is an IFE Agent responsible for aggregating airline news specifically related to Inflight entertainment. She compiles stories relevant to business travelers, airline industry folks, marketers and tech geeks. IFE News doesn't create original content, but rather posts compelling editorial from global media outlets.

ANA to Offer Wi-Fi on International Flights

By Yoree Koh
All Nippon Airways plans to begin offering Wi-Fi on international routes starting July 2013, joining the growing fleet of airlines giving passengers the option to keep tweeting, emailing and sharing as they cross time zones from thousands of feet above ground.

ANA said it will use Geneva-based OnAir as its service provider, and will outfit 28 of its international aircrafts with the satellite-based system. The airline will start with the B777-300ER and B767-300ER fleets next summer and later expand to include its star B787 Dreamliners. ANA spokeswoman Megummi Tetzuka said project will cost the airline about ¥1 billion ($12.5 million), which will cover the purchase and antennae-installation fees. That price doesn’t include the Dreamliners.

On-board Wi-Fi appears to be taking off, but the service for international flights has been slower to catch on. Many airlines, including ANA, remained offline for years after Boeing Co. canceled its unsuccessful “Connexion by Boeing” in 2006. Later, Germany’s Lufthansa was among the first to bring Internet service to international skyways with a satellite-based service developed by Panasonic Avionics Corp., a subsidiary of Panasonic Corp. Qantas took the leap with OnAir, bringing Internet service to flights between Australia and Los Angeles. United Airlines will begin installations later this year, while ANA’s biggest rival, Japan Airlines Co. Ltd., is expected to start offering the service—also using Panasonic Avionics—this summer.

So, what’s behind the delay in getting Wi-Fi up high? Most U.S. airlines with W-Fi use a service that allows laptops and hand-held devices connect to a hotspot on the plane, which transmits to towers on the ground. But flying over oceans complicates things. Service providers like OnAir, Row 44 Inc. and Panasonic Avionics rely on satellites instead of ground towers. This allows for coverage over oceans, as well as more bandwidth and faster speeds, but it also requires a bigger investment. For a while, passenger-usage rates hadn’t justified the cost, but the rise of smartphones and tablets has changed customer expectations.

Ms. Tezuka said ANA hasn’t determined how much passengers will have to pay for the service.
ANA said it deliberated between OnAir and Panasonic. It decided to go with OnAir because it fits more nicely with ANA’s midsize planes. Panasonic Avionic’s service is more friendly towards large aircrafts because of the heftier antennae required to handle the larger bandwidth, which ANA says it concluded it did not need. Ms. Tezuka, the ANA spokeswoman, said that customer surveys showed passengers would be most inclined to use the Internet for texting, surfing and emailing – activities that don’t require a ton of bandwidth.

ANA said it doesn’t intend to introduce Wi-Fi capabilities on domestic routes because the flight time is too short to make it a worthwhile addition.


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