Passengers to surf Web in the sky
Updated: 2012-10-17 23:25
By WANG YING in Shanghai and TAN ZONGYANG in Beijing (China Daily)
Passengers on Chinese airlines will be able to surf the Internet and make phone calls in the air under a government plan that requires Chinese airlines to set up satellite communication systems.
According to a draft proposal released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China on Tuesday, airline companies will have satellite communication equipment installed from 2013 to 2016. By the end of 2016, all commercial aircraft should have the equipment.
"The new move is aimed to strengthen speech communication between the control room on the aircraft and the ground", said an official surnamed Ma from the publicity department at the administration.
The facility will promote the airlines' operation control ability, and also let passengers surf the Web, make phone calls and watch real-time TV, analysts said.
It's definitely a new attraction for flight passengers. Now that high-speed train passengers can surf the Web and make phone calls, airlines have to offer similar services to vie for potential customers, experts said.
"It has long been a dream for travelers to make phone calls and have Internet connections during flights. As long as the technology hurdles are overcome, both airlines and passengers will welcome such services," said Li Lei, an analyst with China Minzu Securities.
Zhang Wu'an, spokesman with budget carrier Spring Airlines, said: "We have been actively exploring this area. Once the technology is sophisticated with no interference in normal flight-crew communications, we will be willing to provide the service to our passengers."
In mid-September, China Eastern Airlines, the nation's second-largest carrier by passenger numbers, successfully tested the air-ground wireless broadband communication facility on its flight from Chengdu of Sichuan province to Xi'an of Shaanxi province, an insider from the Shanghai-based carrier said.
Experts said by using satellite communications, the cost could be lower for airlines to provide in-flight entertainment.
Currently, special facilities must be set up on the ground along the flight route to realize the air-ground broadband communication service, said Ma Zhengxin, a expert on satellite communication at the Department of Electronics Engineering at Tsinghua University.
But that will be unnecessary with satellite communication systems, which allow such services on any flight routes — even intercontinental flights, Ma said.
"In the future, the cost will be even lower with the development of China's satellite communication technology," Ma said, adding that foreign airlines have used satellite communication technology to allow passengers to surf online and make calls.
In China, Air China is reported to be the first domestic carrier to offer WiFi service on its flights. In November 2011, an Air China Boeing 737-800 aircraft tested its wireless local area network at the Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai-based Evening News reported.
Experts suggested the wireless network signal will be put into a special frequency band so that the network will not disturb the aircraft's electronics and navigation facilities.
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