Panasonic company AeroMobile Communications Limited claims to have launched the first in-flight 3G service.
The service will run on Panasonic's Ku-band aeronautical satellite network and will place a 3G network inside planes. 3G is of course rather slower than recent versions of 802.11, but both are constrained by the bottleneck that is satellite connectivity. AeroMobile is claiming that 3G will mean better speed in the air, but it's hard to see how given the service will rely on the same underlying network.
Why bother with 3G when WiFi can do the same trick? AeroMobile seems to be thinking that ease-of-use matters here, because it says that accessing the service will be as easy as turning on a device and agreeing to pay international roaming charges. That's a nice contrast with in-flight WiFi's requirement to log to and pay for a new service.
Of course roaming charges can add up in a hurry, sometimes to terrifying levels.
We've therefore asked AeroMobile how this will work given the European Union's decision to end roaming charges within borders of member nations.
Air Berlin has signed up for AeroMobile's services, initially for its A330-200 aircraft and eventually for its entire fleet. ®