T-Mobile formally throws hat into in-flight connectivity ring

I received a lovely surprise this morning. Communications specialist T-Mobile and VT Miltope, ViaSat and TriaGnoSys have formally teamed to offer a Ku-band satellite broadband and GSM telephony service for air transport.

We’ve known about this plan for some time, but now we have some details so let’s celebrate.

With German-headquartered mobile phone operator T-Mobile acting as the service lynchpin, VT Miltope has defined an airborne equipment fit. California-based mobile satellite specialist ViaSat is responsible for satellite networking infrastructure and Munich-based TriaGnoSys for software development, writes IFE expert Brendan Gallagher.

Key details from Brendan:

The service offering comprises an on-board Wi-Fi hot-spot to support broadband access via passenger laptops and smartphones. T-Mobile will offer a variety of payment methods, and interface with the airline loyalty programs will be possible.

T-Mobile’s team is known to have been involved in protracted discussions with Lufthansa in relation to what could be the last sticking points before a contract. They are also reported to be in discussions with two other long-haul carriers and to have reached a shortlist of two potential providers with one of them.

The team is continuing to study the all-important antenna choice. There are a number of potential suppliers of lightweight, compact second-generation Ku-band antennas.

Candidates are ViaSat itself, which provides equipment for the successful Arinc SkyLink broadband service for business aviation; AeroSat, now flying on Row 44′s trial services with Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines; EMS Technologies, selected for Panasonic’s eXConnect; and Germany’s QEST, teamed with Tecom of the USA. Of these, AeroSat is understood to be the front-runner.

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