In a first for the commercial aviation industry in China, China Eastern Airlines (MU) has begun offering broadband connected flights over China using China Telecom Satellite aeronautical service and Panasonic’s eXConnect system.
The first of 27 aircraft equipped with a system and service tailored to the unique requirements of China is an Airbus A330 aircraft. Onboard, passengers will experience true broadband Wi-Fi as they surf the web, keep in touch with friends and family through their social networks, and even check their email – all at 35,000 feet.
China Eastern has also selected China Telecom Satellite’s service and Panasonic‘s eXConnect system for an additional six B767s and 20 B777 aircraft.
The first aircraft has been dedicated to routes between Shanghai and Beijing, allowing government agencies to observe operation of the service before granting full regulatory approval for operation on additional domestic and international routes.
China Eastern Airlines said, “We are very excited to offer this extremely exciting service with China Telecom Satellite and Panasonic Avionics. This is a tremendous milestone for China and we look forward to ensuring our passengers are both entertained and productive as they fly.”
Lv Junli, President of China Telecom Satellite, added, “This is a momentous day for China’s commercial airline industry, and we are very confident of providing better broadband connectivity to China with our partners at China Eastern Airlines and Panasonic.”
According to Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics, “After years of close collaboration with China Eastern Airlines and China Telecom Satellite, we are now witnessing the next step in the evolution of in-flight entertainment over China. We are very excited to bring in-flight broadband Wi-Fi to this strategic market.”
China Eastern said its in-flight WiFi services can allow internet access for 200 users simultaneously for basic internet functions, and high-speed internet is available if only 40-50 persons are accessing the internet at the same time.
China Southern (CZ) will soon launch a similar service test on its Beijing-Guangzhou route.
According to a 2012 draft plan by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, all Chinese airlines will be equipped with satellite communication systems by the end of 2016.
Although the service is free during the test period (until 30 September), passengers will probably have to pay in the future.