OneWeb satellites will enable mobile roaming on planes

Written by David Adams

US satellite firm OneWeb and aviation manufacturer Airbus are among the founder members of the Seamless Air Alliance, which aims to develop top quality internet access for aeroplane passengers. Other members of the alliance include US airline Delta, Indian airline Bharti Airtel, in-flight internet specialist Gogo and telecommunications company Sprint. SoftBank is a majority shareholder in both OneWeb and Sprint.

The alliance wants to deliver mobile roaming capabilities to planes, using satellite services but with billing still managed by customers’ mobile providers. OneWeb will begin launching the first of a planned network of 900 satellites that will offer internet services later this year, rivalling SpaceX’s much larger planned network of almost 12,000 satellites.

These are all long term plans: OneWeb admits its vision of mobile roaming on planes will not be realised until deep into the 2020s. Nonetheless, founder and chief executive Greg Wyler is bullish about the new initiative, declaring that the Alliance would eventually “enable an affordable and frictionless experience for passengers everywhere”.

Gil West, senior executive vice-president and COO at Delta said that airline customers now “have an expectation that their internet connection just works – no matter where they are in their travel journey”. As for those of us who secretly enjoy the lack of consistent, reliable internet access while flying, well, we’ll just have to enjoy those email-free flights while they last.

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