Emirates to launch in-flight mobile data service

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Emirates this summer plans to begin rolling out in-flight mobile data service on its aircraft, ATI and Flightglobal can reveal.

A total 74 Emirates aircraft currently carry AeroMobile's in-flight GSM solution, which allows passengers to make and receive voice calls and text messages.

AeroMobile's GPRS service will be offered on one or two of the carrier's Boeing 777s "in four to six weeks", says Emirates vice-president corporate communications, product, publishing digital and events Patrick Brannelly. Thereafter, the airline will "roll it out as quickly as possible".

GPRS will initially be operated over Inmarsat's Swift64 aeronautical service, but an upgrade to SwiftBroadband (SBB) will occur in a few months. "We're just waiting on some avionics equipment to get final certification", says Brannelly, noting that "certainly GPRS and SBB go together quite well".

AeroMobile can support data services, such as email and Internet browsing over GPRS and Wi-Fi/Live IP as long as an aircraft has higher bandwidth communications systems such as Swift64, SwiftBroadband or Ku-band satellite services.

Emirates has long targeted fleet-wide equipage of mobile connectivity. "We're a full widebodied fleet, which makes us fairly unique, so many of our planes can operate just about any route, so getting it across the fleet is clearly the end game. It just takes a little bit longer to fit the newer planes than the older planes, but it is certainly the intent. We would have hoped to have 100 aircraft with the AeroMobile solution [by now] but it takes time to get planes into the hangars," says Brannelly.

Flightglobal's Runway Girl blog on 22 May was the first to report that Emirates has inked a deal with AeroMobile rival OnAir to bring the Airbus/SITA joint venture's in-flight connectivity solution to its Airbus A380s. AeroMobile's service is not line-fit offerable on the A380. Emirates has not yet spoken publicly of the deal.