Communications specialist and network operator AT&T announced plans to launch a high-speed 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE)-based in-flight connectivity service for airlines and passengers in commercial, business and general aviation.
The service, planned to be available as soon as late 2015, will be capable of providing in-flight broadband for customers including a commitment to faster, more reliable WiFi and improved onboard entertainment.
AT&T plans to work with Honeywell, an aerospace industry specialist, to provide hardware and service capabilities to deliver the in-flight connectivity solution.
"Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet," John Stankey, chief strategy officer at AT&T, said in a statement. "We are building on AT&T's significant strengths to develop in-flight connectivity technology unlike any other that exists today, based on 4G LTE standards. We believe this will enable airlines and passengers to benefit from reliable high speeds and a better experience. We expect this service to transform connectivity in the aviation industry—we are truly mobilizing the sky."
To deliver the service, the company plans to build an extensive air-to-ground network in the continental United States, based on global 4G LTE standards, to provide fast speeds and efficient utilization of spectrum already owned by AT&T.
Honeywell recently issued its Wireless Connectivity Survey indicating that in-flight WiFi currently causes frustrations for nearly nine in 10 users worldwide, most often due to inconsistent or slow connections.
Following launch, AT&T said it plans to provide its aviation customers with other improved connectivity solutions such as cockpit communications, maintenance operations and crew services.
According to the Honeywell survey, almost 90 percent of fliers would give up an amenity on their flight — preferred seats, extra legroom and more — to be guaranteed a faster and more consistent wireless connection.
More than three in four fliers surveyed think wireless access should always be available on planes. And when it comes to the current in-flight WiFi experience, passengers want the type of consistency and speed experienced at home or in the office, especially on trans-oceanic or international flights.
More than one-third of passengers surveyed would be disappointed if in-flight WiFi was not available on an international flight or over an ocean, and survey results also indicated that travelers use WiFi for personal rather than professional reasons.
For example, almost three-quarters of Americans (73 percent) and two-thirds of Britons (63 percent) and Singaporeans (61 percent) simply want the option to be connected.