Mile high broadband club – WirelessG in-flight

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Sub-Saharan Africans will soon be able to connect to the Internet pretty-much anywhere they are ““ even while on a domestic or long-haul flight ““ thanks to a new technology announcement from WirelessG, the company behind SA’s first converged, pre-paid Internet product, G-Connect.
While the technology that will enable in-flight Internet services is depending on Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval, it will be provided through an exclusive agreement with US-based Row 44 who is already successfully offering in-flight Wi-Fi Internet to Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and in 2010, through Norwegian Air Shuttle. After extensive testing in the US, the first complete set of hardware will arrive in South Africa shortly. This will be used to setup a ground-based proof of concept (POC) here in South Africa to test the complete solution including the Satellites that will be used for the commercial product.
WirelessG also holds an exclusive agreement for the African continent, but are still investigating options to see how soon, and to which extent they will be able to provide in-flight Wi-Fi into Africa and is actively investigating potential airline prospects to identify valuable business partners.
Carel van der Merwe, CEO of WirelessG, says the company is already in negotiations with local airlines, and while the solution is already in POC phase, no information is being released as to which carrier will launch the service first.
Because Row 44‘s in-flight broadband system is satellite-based and leverages the extensive Hughes satelllite network, WirelessG and Row 44 will be able to provide African airlines‘ passengers with uninterrupted high-speed connectivity in-flight, no matter where they fly“”including flights across multiple countries and over water.
WirelessG has successfully integrated its converged billing platform to this new technological environment. This platform, which has undergone extensive testing against the WirelessG converged billing service, will connect via satellite to provide a full range of Internet services such as web browsing, email access, VPN connectivity and web-based SMS.
Van der Merwe says the new solution will dovetail perfectly into G-Connect’s current converged Internet solution and extend the ADSL, Wi-Fi hotspot and 3G Internet access currently on offer from the service into the cloud.
The in-flight Internet service will be available to all passengers on participating flights for a fee, while G-Connect users can benefit from the service as they will be able to use their current G-Connect accounts onboard the aircraft.
“œWith the G-Connect sign-up process being free of cost and contracts, we are expecting many travelers to utilise the advantage of our in-flight offering,“ says van der Merwe.
“œWe have always focused on innovating within the telecoms space in order to provide increased value to our customers. We were the first provider to offer a 3-in-1 service (ADSL, 3G, Wi-Fi), and a wallet for managing connectivity spend. All that is required now, is to legitimise the US approved Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) through the South African CAA. Once we have received this approval, we are able to launch the POC aircrafts and then be the first to offer in-flight Internet access in Africa,“ explains van der Merwe. “œBeing able to provide such a highly necessary and useful product, makes us really proud.“
“œWirelessG has built the dominant Wi-Fi hotspot presence across Africa and maintains agreements that extend its services globally,“ said Frederick St.Amour, Row 44‘s Vice President of Business Development. “œBy extending its coverage to aircraft in flight, they continue to demonstrate the innovation and leadership for which they are well known. As a result, air travelers in Africa will enjoy in-flight broadband services much sooner than they would have otherwise. Row 44 is thrilled to join forces with WirelessG to bring a wide range of connectivity services to the African skies.“