Faroe Islands-based Atlantic Airways will become the global launch partner for AirFi LEO, the company’s first in-flight connectivity service, by the end of this year.
AirFi LEO connects the AirFi Venus portable wireless IFE system to the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation through a low-profile antenna, delivering a relatively low-bandwidth satellite link. The solution, which enables basic web services at a low cost will fly first on Atlantic Airways, with installations beginning in Q4 2018.
The initial implementation will run on the Iridium GO platform, a legacy offering optimised for SMS and other small message transactions like payment processing. AirFi is working with resellers of that solution to speed time to market.
Eli Atiya, AirFi’s COO, said real-time booking, online payments, instant messaging and social media were potential use cases.
“There is high demand for basic connectivity across our client base – more so than high-speed internet,” said Eli Atiya.
“AirFi LEO delivers an extremely important addition to our portfolio and meets our criteria for safe, rapid deployment.”
Johanna a Bergi, CEO of Atlantic Airways, said: “Passengers will be able to message their friends and families at 35,000 feet, check their social media feeds and complete last-minute transactions like renting a car or booking a hotel room, from the comfort of their aircraft seat.”
AirFi says the global coverage provided by Iridium’s NEXT constellation is also important to Atlantic Airways, given its hub’s northern position on the globe. While geostationary (GEO) satellites do cover the region and routes, the low earth orbit (LEO) satellites remove any chance of a gap on flight routes.
Iridium intends to upgrade the per-channel speed of NEXT in 2019, increasing throughput without requiring any hardware changes on the antenna or client side.
A previous version of this story implied a direct relationship between AirFi and Iridium to deliver the connectivity service and specific bandwidth performance estimates. Those details were wrong and both parties apologise for any confusion.