Oman Air reveals low Wi-Fi take-up (Twitter responds)

A330 Economy laptop.JPG

Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) announcement this week that it is bringing OnAir-provided mobile connectivity and Wi-Fi to its aircraft is so interesting on so many levels that it deserves a blog all its own (and it will get one).

But before we can opine about why Panasonic Avionics mega-IFE customer SIA selected Airbus/SITA joint venture OnAir’s SwiftBroadband-supported connectivity (which can support data rates of up to 432 kbps per channel) over Panasonic’s Ku-band satellite-based high-speed Internet connectivity, let’s first take a look at how Oman Air is fairing with its own connectivity offering.

Why Oman, RWG? Well, you may recall that Oman this spring became the first airline in the world to offer passengers both in-flight mobile and Internet, after switching on OnAir’s solutions on Airbus A330-300 aircraft. Oman charges passengers $29.95 for 26 MB per flight for Internet. And, remarkably, Oman Air has dished the dirt on usage.

In a LinkedIn thread started 24 days ago by the ‘In-flight Entertainment’ group, Oman in-flight entertainment manager Saurav Mukherjee reveals the following:

We at Oman Air launched our inflight wi-fi services over six months back which has been a welcome move as well as a differentiator for us as we became first airline in the world to provide inflight wi-fi and mobile phone services together.

Our analysis after the first six months of operation doesn’t show very high usage level despite being a technically stable product …we have been promoting it inflight through IFE, magazines and promo material as well ATL advertising Our offering is $29.9 for 26 MB of bandwidth. Is pricing the main factor ?? Or the marketing efforts have been inadequate to change the perceptions … If pricing then what is your opinion for an ideal price plan ….

Mukherjee asks if pricing is the factor. At just under $30 for 26 MB of bandwidth (and rumored to be $6 for every additional MB after that…to be confirmed) -  I think pricing is at least part of the issue.

So, I asked my fellow tweeps just how fast they could eat up 26 MB. Here are just some of the answers:

@inloworbit Lift Off
I can use 26MB in a hour or 2, depends on the time of day

@roblandon Rob Landon
The good news is, with that crappy of a connection, 26MB would last you awhile. You aren’t going to watch video with it for sure

MarceloDeBiasi Marcelo F. De Biasi
…And we haven’t even said anything about corporate users. Then 26 MB dies out in 24-48hs at the most. 26 MB is ‘peanuts’… That’s it I guess ;)

flightblogger Jon Ostrower
I can kill 26 MB in 20 minutes or less if I’m in the US. Can stretch it 2-3 days if I’m abroad.

How fast can you eat up 26 MB of bandwidth on your iPhone? < Most will not really know, like me???? <s>

MilitaryMatters Kevin Paterson
I suspect quicker than people probably realise.

adders Adam Tinworth
About 20 minutes, if I’m uploading pics and vids…

jerrytroll Lee
Uh..I’d say minutes. That’s smaller than most App downloads.

2Stern4U Robert Stern
Well, rather quickly. Especially when a data intensive user like me runs Pandora, Twitter, 4square, and more at the same time.

esposimi Michael Esposito
Watching just one YouTube video can kill it.

Then I asked the question – would you pay $30 for 26 MB of bandwidth? Here are some answers:

MilitaryMatters Kevin Paterson
heck no. Wifi should be free everywhere you go in this day and age.

roblandon Rob Landon
Considering the speed, the only way I would pay that is if I was DESPERATE to stay connected for work. Short answer: No way.

rbertoli Rodrigo Bertoli
30 bucks on 26MB ? Personally, I won’t. Only in case of emergency, maybe.

orionll Orion Lyau
No, definitely not.

user47 JL Johnson
Prob not… MAYBE just maybe if I was suuuupppeeerrr desperate. -OR- If an attractive female sans-a-band was sitting next to me.

MarceloDeBiasi Marcelo F. De Biasi
…Too expensive if compared to the amount I pay for my broadband intenet access at home and the amount I pay for my smartphone. I can live wo net 4 12hs…

jerrytroll Lee
Absolutely not. Way too much money, and I’d use more than 26mb if I was counting on my device for entertainment on a flight

ymerej Jeremy Greenidge
Final question – would you pay $30 for 26 MB of bandwidth on a long-haul flight? $6 for every 1 MB after that. < hell no!

zachvat Bill Lamb
Re: Final Question – No, I would not pay that. :-)

Hmmm. I think Oman should be posing this question on Twitter! But do read the LinkedIn thread for some great insight from industry experts.

The original photo for this blow (see below) showed an Oman A330 with two antennas. For clarification – the big boy is Oman’s Ku antenna for live television and the little guy supports the carrier’s SwiftBroadband solutions.

(To photo from Airbus. Bottom photo of Oman aircraft from Ugg Boy’s Flickr photo stream)

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10 Responses to Oman Air reveals low Wi-Fi take-up (Twitter responds)

  1. Phil W October 8, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    What’s the LinkedIn group name? It’s not ACE (Aircraft Connectivity Experts), because I’m “not a member of that group” and need to join to see the convo.

  2. Phil W October 8, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    10 days into my billing cycle, and I’ve used 125.33 MB on my iPhone. That’s with Wifi at home and at work where I don’t use 3G. I routinely get attachments that are over 5MB, so it’d be real easy to use that up doing biz email in flight.

    Note that most carriers bill by time, not by data. I think this is driven by the cost of SBB.

    Just be clear, MB= 1000 Bytes, while Mb= 1000 bits. Big difference.

  3. Mary Kirby October 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    It’s the In-flight Entertainment group, see

  4. Roger October 8, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    Is it free in business/first?

    In cattle class I don’t see how anyone can actually use the service with laptops unless they are really small people (trend: people keep getting taller and larger, seats aren’t getting any further apart).

    Another random data point – the 30 minute talking podcast “The Bugle” (very funny) is a 35MB download.

    My sent email for the last 10 days is about 30MB. It includes 3 pictures. The actual email protocol (IMAP and SSL) will result in quite a few more bytes transferred.

    By having the limits they have also screwed up psychology. It is very clear that the service is rationed. Someone has to make a mental judgment as to whether they want to pay for the service at all, and they have make to make the same judgment for every program they open, and then again for every item they click on. This is why micropayments still continue to not work. You should never be encouraging your customers to consider how little of your service they can use, but rather encourage them to use it more and become dependent on it!

    The better way to handle this is to make the service unlimited, but whenever the connection is saturated then deprioritise the traffic the most of whoever has consumed the most so far. This way light users will get very good performance, heavy ones won’t be penalised if noone else is doing anything, and heavy users will still be able to work albeit a little slower if there is contention but only after a while.

  5. John Doe October 9, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    I am not surprised. This is the engineering study i have submitted last year. It does not make sense technologically as well as commercially.
    Having an extremely expensive “dial up modem” system in this age is unacceptable. It is not worth the weight on board. It is USD6.5/MB and on 432kb/s for all aircraft. So 10 people out of 250 on an A330 accessing internet, they have to share the total, hence having a speed of 43kb/s. Amazingly slow. I have tested the system various time and it is “rubbish”. On a six hour flight, could not access my VPN work email, so I was trying to update my IPad which did not finish doing so after the end of the flight. Total Bill, $266 (Madness). On another occasion, opened my Iphone and it automically downloaded and updated the applications, Total bill, unavoidable $28. Never turned my phone again on flights with OnAir.

    Yes, Singapore Airlines will fit the same system as well as others, rest assured, they will regret the day they have this on board.

    But why would the airlines fit this, the answer is simple. Airbus, Aircraft manufacture, owns On Air. They work on bullying tactic and force airlines to exclusively accept “this” system claiming that any other system is not safe to be fitted on the aircraft. By the way, another Communications vendor is using same technology as onAir, exactly same, and they are banned to fit on Airbus What they are doing is illegal in EU laws and I do expect them to be sued shortly. On the other hand, KU has been investigated by one of the best Avionics experts in the world, Lufthansa Technic on CBB Boeing KU technology. Although the antenna is heavy and has many faults, an “airline” in the region has finalised the best working solution with a reputable avionics vendor. What will we soon get on board “this” airline: 52MBPS per aircraft, Live Stream from Satellite TV (never before on any airline), 1GB WIFI and unlimited connected apps for free. What is the cost, Business Class is free to burn as many GB as he/she wants, economy class will buy a one day access unlimited downloads and uploads for $21. This cost includes access to all airport access points around the world with T-Mobile. So, economy class passenger will buy the access while in London (as an example), uses his daily unlimited access on long flights and roams this access anywhere in the world. Mind you, $21 is too cheap when we can video and audio SKYPE, this saves $100s on telephone calls. During tests, I have burned 2 GB in less than an hour updating my IPAD and downloading my emails. 62 passengers were accessing the internet at the same time. The reliability and speed is breathless.

    Wait for the news..

  6. Mary Kirby October 9, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    Panasonic and its partner (OnAir rival) AeroMobile made some headway by gaining offerability for Ku on the Airbus A350 but only because Panasonic presumably refused to sign the IFE portion of the deal unless Airbus relented. As you rightly point out, Airbus continues to deny linefit offerability to any connectivity solution except OnAir on all its current-gen twin-aisles. Perhaps, like Boeing with the 787, Airbus does not want anything (else) to stand in the way of delivery dates for its aircraft, most especially the A380. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines has seen all these announcements about carriers bringing in-flight connectivity to their aircraft (Cathay, Lufthansa, Turkish have all opted for Ku) and clearly SIA is feeling the competitive pressure, esp with the Cathay deal (and wants a piece of the headline action). Added to that, SIA is a former Connexion customer that was burned by CBB, and now – shite! – SIA is being burned by Koito too. With two major partners falling by the wayside in the last few years, SIA may have wanted to go with what is no doubt being billed as the safe bet, a SBB-supported solution that is linefit offerable on Airbus aircraft (including, substantially, the A380). Even Emirates, a carrier that was committed to offering AeroMobile’s service across it’s entire fleet, has gone with OnAir for the A380, after no doubt considering the time/expense associated with retrofitting A380s with another product. Damnit John, my SIA blog is hardly going to look original after this exchange, but I’ll try. :0)

  7. Mary Kirby October 9, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    P.S. Where can I find your engineering study?

  8. Tony B October 11, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    Is that a Ku antenna ontop of that A330?

  9. Mary Kirby October 11, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    Yes. Oman offers Rockwell Collins’ Tailwind in-flight TV service so clearly they’re not adverse to Ku (albeit for DBS).

  10. Mushroom October 12, 2010 at 6:24 am #

    I agree with John Doe’s ‘impartial’ musings.

    So I’ve gone out and fitted a brand new KU system for half a million bucks and my aircraft is serving Asia and then Africa, could someone lease a KU satellite to cover that region for me!?


    Hello….anyone there?

    CEO of an airline