China Mobile, Air China trial inflight Wi-Fi

Fiona Chau
22 Apr 2014

China Mobile has teamed up with Air China to test the country’s first high-speed inflight broadband service leveraging 4G technology for intercity air travelers in China.

The test took place last Wednesday on two Air China flights traveling between Beijing and Chengdu, offered passengers free Wi-Fi service for broadband browsing at 32,000 feet.

In the trial, passengers were allowed to use their personal computers and electronic devices to access the internet through Wi-Fi for a variety of online services, such as web browsing, instant messaging, email, online gaming, and real-time videos.

However, passenger weren’t allowed to use mobile phones in the trial and internet services are not available during takeoff and landing to comply with the country’s aviation regulations.

The Wi-Fi service leverages China Mobile’s 4G base stations on the ground for the backhaul connection from the airplane.

China Mobile said the system, dubbed the “ground-to-air broadband network”, provides passengers with a better user experience, as ground-to-flight data transmission provides bandwidth over ten times faster than satellite data links.

The inflight service promises users internet access speeds of up to 30 Mbps.

China Mobile has been working with aviation partners to start the "ground-to-air broadband communication" project on selected flight routes since late 2012. At present, China Mobile’s air-ground broadband network covers routes between Beijing and Chongqing, Beijing and Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, China Mobile said.

Air China – the first commercial carrier in the country to offer inflight broadband service – has so far equipped only two jetliners between Beijing and Chengdu with the new system. The company reportedly plans to deploy the new system on all domestic Air China flights in two years.

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