Qantas could offer in-flight Internet service on its Airbus A380s by the end of the year, the head of Airbus/SITA joint venture OnAir has revealed.

Last fall the Australian carrier announced that A380 passengers would initially be able to use their seat-back in-flight entertainment screen, or their own laptops, to access OnAir's webmail and webchat services, which harnesses Inmarsat's Swift64 satellite service.

But Qantas also said the offering would be upgraded to include full live Internet connectivity - dubbed Internet OnAir - as soon as Inmarsat's higher-bandwidth SwiftBroadband satellite service was available in the Pacific region, and the satcom avionics for the A380 became available.

"As far as Qantas is concerned, they will go full Internet, which is beyond webchat and webmail, but we had to apply for the regulatory approval regarding Internet," says OnAir chief Benoit Debains, noting that the legal requirements in Australia are very specific.

"We have submitted the plan and think we're on track [to start service before year-end," adds Debains.

SwiftBroadband will support data rates of about 472 kilobits per second. "We're not talking about downloading movies but it will be more than enough to surf the web," says Debains.

Thus far, Qantas has not opted to offer OnAir's GSM/GPRS service.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news