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June 9, 2014

British Airways to roll out in-flight Internet within three years

European passengers to get broadband if $250m deal takes off.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

British Airways is in advanced talks with satellite firm Inmarsat to provide super-fast and reliable internet access across the European airspace.

The airline, a unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group, said the service, which combines satellite and air-to-ground 4G connectivity, would initially be available on its UK domestic routes within three years.

London-based Inmarsat said it had teamed up with European peer Hellas-Sat for the construction of the satellite from French-Italian firm Thales Alenia Space, in efforts to reduce initial programme costs.

Called Europasat, the $250m satellite is expected to be delivered in 2016, the company said.

Inmarsat’s CEO Rupert Pearce said: "We believe that the same in-flight connectivity opportunity exists in Europe and that, with the support of EU telecoms regulators, Inmarsat can rapidly bring to market unique, high speed aviation passenger connectivity services to meet this market demand on an EU-wide basis.

"A number of European airlines are aligned with this vision and we are absolutely delighted to announce advanced discussions with British Airways to be a launch customer on our new aviation network."

Kate Thornton, head of product and service at BA, said the airline could soon be "leading Europe in a new era of broadband in the air".

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"Starting with UK domestic routes Inmarsat intends to deploy Europe’s first ground-based 4G broadband network giving our customers the internet access they expect on the ground while in the air," she said.

Inmarsat and BA have not revealed how much the in-flight service will cost.

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