China set to embrace in-flight Wi-Fi era

China set to embrace in-flight Wi-Fi era

A new ground-to-air communications system will improve the flying experience with Chinese airlines
China airline
China plans to kick off in-fight Wi-Fi by the end of 2012. Will the Great Firewall follow up?

An in-flight entertainment system is a rare find on mainland Chinese carriers, even on long-haul flights. 

But with the country’s ambition to tap the sky-high Wi-Fi market, flying with Chinese airlines might soon get much more fun.

Beijing News reported that the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is testing a ground-to-air broadband communications system and is likely to put it to commercial use by the end of 2012.

Three times faster than U.S. in-flight Wi-Fi

Developed by Civil Aviation Flight University of China, Huawei and Weibang Yuanhang Wi-Fi Technologies, the new system debuted during a CAAC forum in Shenzhen last December. It will allow passengers to access the Internet using Wi-Fi while flying.

The communication system will install multiple ground bases along airline routes and these bases will send broadband data to passing aircraft at an expected speed of 30Mbps. That’s three times faster than the current U.S. in-fight Wi-Fi, reported Beijing News.

According to the same report, once the system is put adopted on aircraft, passengers' surfing experience will be almost the same as that on the ground.

While conducting an internal test on the new communication system, CAAC is negotiating with multiple telecommunication suppliers, including China Mobile and China Unicom, for future collaboration.

The bureau is yet to disclose a possible price system for in-flight Wi-Fi.

China’s in-fight Wi-Fi era

Air China was the first Chinese airline to take Wi-Fi to the skies. However, its experimental Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft, which took off last November, was only able to provide intranet, instead of Internet.

Hainan Air is reported to have successfully completed a trial flight with the new ground-to-air broadband communications system last December.

Last Novermber, Oriental Morning Post reported that the Chinese aviation authorities have yet to recognize the legitimacy of in-flight Wi-Fi Internet or intranet, and the central government has yet to set up any rules on the new aviation trend.

This means both airlines and the aviation bureau have nothing to resort to while dealing with key issues, such as the installation of Wi-Fi devices and pricing model.