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Airbus and Delta partner in mobile-connectivity scheme

Airbus and Delta Air Lines are spearheading a new initiative intended to simplify introduction of, and access to, high-speed data networks for passengers.

The initiative, known as the Seamless Air Alliance, intends to enable mobile operators to broaden their reach into airline cabins.

These operators will be able to provide customers with services both on the ground and in the air, through the use of satellite technology, improving user experience.

But the alliance also aims to "eliminate the immense costs and hurdles" involved in acquiring and installing data-access infrastructure.

It will establish open specifications for interoperability and streamline system integration and certification as part of this cost-reduction effort.

Airbus and Delta are two of the initial five members of the alliance.

The others comprise satellite production and connectivity specialist OneWeb, plus respective US and Indian telecoms companies Sprint and Bharti Airtel.

"Easy-to-use, high-speed connectivity is part of the next revolution in aerospace,” says Airbus digital transformation officer Marc Fontaine.

The airframer has already embarked on an aviation data connectivity programme, Skywise, which it unveiled at the Paris air show last year.

Delta Air Lines chief operating officer Gil West says the carrier's passengers have an "expectation" of functioning Internet connections at each stage of a journey.

He indicates that its connectivity partner Gogo will also be joining the Seamless Air Alliance.

OneWeb already co-operates with Airbus through the formation of a satellite-production venture, OneWeb Satellites, and has been establishing a high-volume manufacturing centre in Florida.

Chairman and founder Greg Wyler says it will be launching its first production satellites this year.

The venture will manufacture Internet connectivity satellites weighing just 150kg, and claims they will offer "better performance" than larger, more expensive communications satellites.

Airbus aircraft production technology, it says, will allow the facility to produce up to three satellites daily.

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