Inflight television provider AIRIA is finally moving ahead with plans to launch on-aircraft trials in 2003, after experiencing more than a year of setbacks.

AIRIA, a joint venture between Inmarsat and APR - the latter formerly known as Live In-flight Video Entertainment - was established in September 2000 with the intention of delivering live broadcast content to long-haul airlines using the existing infrastructure in place for Inmarsat's Aero H/H+ satellite communications services.

In mid-2001, AIRIA completed tests that it claimed validated the concept that an L-band satellite system can deliver broadband data to aircraft globally. But the company failed to launch its anticipated airline trials in 2001 or 2002.

AIRIA marketing vice-president Vardhan Rajkumar admits that in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks business "slowed down a bit" and forced AIRIA to alter its initial plans. "We have changed [the system] around, trimmed it a little. We are going to offer a BBC World news channel to start, rather than the bigger [entertainment] offering. The product will still do multiple channels, but we will start with one," he says.

AIRIA is now preparing to begin demonstrations of a prototype box on a corporate aircraft in the summer, and says it has secured an as yet undisclosed commercial airline to test the system by the end of the year. Live data services including internet, intranet and e-mail applications could be added.

Meanwhile, rival AirTV has seen a number of planned trials slip since 11 September 2001. It says, however, that Italian flag carrier Alitalia has begun further trials of its basic e-mail and Internet services on board a Boeing 767, after completing in December its first airborne e-mail transmissions using the system.

Source: Flight International