OnAir has been recognised as one of Europe’s most creative companies by CNBC Business magazine, which underscored this Airbus subsidiary’s pioneering work for in-flight mobile services.
Founded in 2005 as a joint venture between Airbus and IT solutions/communications services provider SITA, OnAir enables airline and VIP aircraft passengers to stay in touch while travelling. Currently, OnAir technologies are utilised on more than 10,000 flights a month.
Oman Air was the first airline to utilize OnAir capabilities commercially, “going live” with both mobile and high-speed Internet aboard its A330 flights earlier this year – which also represented an industry first.
The use of mobiles phones and Wi-Fi Internet access in-flight previously had been available, however airlines had to choose one or the other. OnAir is able to offer customers both technologies simultaneously – a major breakthrough given the growing popularity of smart phones.
Each OnAir-equipped aircraft carries what is effectively a Wi-Fi “hotspot” and a miniature GSM base station. These are connected to the ground via satellite link, creating a “pipe” that carries digital information. The ground station then sends information into the normal GSM and Internet ground networks.
This new technology shares the connection provided by the data link with cockpit traffic, while keeping a single SATCOM antenna on the aircraft – an arrangement that required certification.
“This is a well deserved acknowledgement of OnAir's innovative services for airlines,” said Pierre Drouet-Fleurizelle, head of Airbus’ connectivity programme. “But above all, it is proof of Airbus' capacity to develop and deliver products that support these pioneering services.”
Pierre added that his team is delighted the company was named on CNBC Business' list, particularly because it followed Emirates’ recent agreement to install OnAir in-flight passenger communications services on all 90 of its new A380s.