Airtel to soon provide uninterrupted in-flight connectivity

Bharti Airtel joins hands with Seamless Alliance, to offer high speed data connectivity to mobile users even when they are up in the air.

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On Monday, the telecom giant Bharti Airtel issued a statement announcing its collaboration with Seamless Alliance to bring uninterrupted in-flight connectivity to its customers.

As the formation of Seamless Alliance was announced on Monday in Barcelona, the founding members of the alliance include OneWeb, Airbus, Delta and Sprint. This global alliance aims to leverage satellite technology to offer high speed data connectivity to mobile users even when they are up in the air.

The current partners

  • Bharti Airtel is a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 16 countries across Asia and Africa. Headquartered in New Delhi, India, the company ranks amongst the top 3 mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers.
  • Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. It offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 seats to more than 600 seats, and is one of the world’s leading space companies.
  • Delta Air Lines serves more than 180 million customers each year to 314 destinations in 54 countries on six continents. Headquartered in Atlanta, they operate a mainline fleet of more than 800 aircraft.
  • OneWeb is building a communications network with a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide connectivity to billions of people around the world.  Their mission is to enable affordable Internet access for everyone, connect every school on Earth, and bridge the digital divide by 2027.
  • Sprint served 54.6 million connections as of December 31, 2017. They have instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier-1 Internet backbone.

“We are delighted to be a founding member of this innovative technology platform to bring seamless connectivity to customers in the true sense. Over 370 million mobile customers across Airtel’s global network will be able to enjoy uninterrupted access to high speed data services even while they are in-flight. We look forward to collaborating with all partner members to ensure this platform goes LIVE at the earliest” said Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel, in a statement.

The alliance aims to attract additional industry operators beyond the five founding members. This will eliminate the immense costs and hurdles commonly associated with acquisition, installation, and operation of data-access infrastructure by streamlining system integration and certification, providing open specifications for interoperability, increasing accessibility for passengers, and enabling simple and integrated billing.

The member operators, including Airtel, will now be able to continuously provide the same high-speed, low-latency connectivity from ground, to air and back again, via satellite to its customers. It will also significantly reduce costs for everyone involved while creating a smooth, positive user-experience.

Airtel is the third largest mobile operator in the world with operations in 16 countries across Asia and Africa.

With the mission to enable affordable internet access for everyone, OneWeb is building a communications network with a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide connectivity to billions of people around the world.

Greg Wyler, the founder and executive chairman of OneWeb, said, “What if the best internet you ever experienced was in the air? Keeping this goal in mind, together we will enable an affordable and frictionless experience for passengers everywhere. With the launch of our first production satellites set for later this year, we’re one step closer to bridging the global digital divide on land and in the air.”

Last month the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), had presented a proposal to introduce In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) for voice, data and video services for domestic, international and overflying flights in Indian airspace.

The DoT had sought the recommendations of TRAI on licensing terms and conditions for provision of IFC for voice, data and video services. The systems on these e-enabled aircrafts transmit data from satellite or ground-based communication networks.

According to a survey Inmarsat did in May last year, about 86 percent of Indian air travelers would prefer to fly with a carrier that offers Internet connectivity. 60 percent of passengers believe that inflight Wi-Fi is a necessity, not a luxury; and 45 percent people were ready to pay for inflight Wi-Fi rather than use free on-board entertainment. (Read the full report here)