Emirates has contracted Airbus/Sita joint venture OnAir to fit its 90 Airbus A380s with in-flight wi-fi and mobile connectivity to fulfil a long-stated promise to bring connectivity across its entire fleet.

The carrier will initially move to retrofit its Inmarsat SwiftBroadband-equipped A380s with OnAir's wi-fi solution in early 2011. OnAir says wi-fi "is the easiest and quickest to get started and the only thing that can be done in this short timeframe". The service will enable passengers to access the internet on personal portable devices such as laptops, smartphones and mobile telephones.

But the full cadre of OnAir's wi-fi and GSM/GPRS services will be installed line-fit on Emirates' new A380s beginning in late 2011 with an expected entry-into-service of June 2012.

Passengers will be able to use their mobile phones, smart phones and BlackBerry devices to make in-flight voice calls, send SMS text messages or use data services wirelessly on their Apple iPhones, iPads and laptops equipped with GPRS modems.

Emirates is a pioneer of in-flight connectivity. The carrier is in the process of retrofitting the lion's share of its operating fleet with OnAir rival AeroMobile's mobile connectivity solution, which is currently supported by Inmarsat's "Classic" and Swift64 services.

AeroMobile is not line-fit offerable on the A380, so Emirates' decision to select OnAir for its A380s ensures a speedier entry-into-service of connectivity on the carrier's ultra-widebodies.

"In choosing SwiftBroadband technology, Emirates benefits from a powerful platform combining cockpit and cabin communications - and one that offers further evolution into the future, should market demand require," says OnAir chief executive Ian Dawkins.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news