back to article In-flight 3G arrives, promises aerial internet at mobile roaming prices

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 …

  1. Shades

    Why would I pay £5 p/mb when I can pay the same £5 for an hours access and consume as much data as I like during that hour? Paying £5 for an hours access is massively over the odds but £5 p/mb to skip the few seconds of "inconvenience" of having to register* for a service... err, yeah, no thanks.

    *Lufthansa only want your email address and a password if you pay via PayPal, their access points web app works with the PayPal app (if you have it on your phone) so you don't even have to bother digging out your credit/debit card.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Not sure about the business case other than stiffing rich people in the higher classes

      >That's a nice contrast with in-flight WiFi's requirement to log to and pay for a new service.

      I'm sure an airline can handle that at the ticketing phase and even remove this requirement with sufficient technical nous - EAP-SIM authentication may be able to be abused into allowing it, so all you'd really need to do is give your phone number (and possibly network).

      Either on WiFi or on 3G, latency is going to be a pig over satellite backhaul.

      With regards to roaming - if I've got a phone supporting voice over wifi, and buy wifi access, I assume this will give calling within my allowance, rather than at roaming rates over an in-flight 3G service

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "£5 p/mb"

      £5 pico divided by micro bit?


      1. Vic

        Re: "£5 p/mb"

        £5 pico divided by micro bit?

        milli ...


  2. David Austin


    It's a nice technical solution, but to balance it out, I think the Air Marshall should be allowed to detail, with force if necessary, anyone they can hear talking from more than six rows away (The "Dom Jolly" Law)

  3. Rural area satellite.

    Ryan Air will offer 3G by making very sharp turns.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      They already offer it on landing, on some flights

  4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    It will be used

    I have not doubt people will use the service but somehow it feels like squandering money.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: It will be used

      If you pay 5x economy to fly business, or 10x to fly first, spunking £5/MB may not be your principal concern!

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: It will be used

        >spunking £5/MB may not be your principal concern!

        Depends on length of flight and who is paying the bills...

        I've worked for companies where the variable costs of flights were readily signed-off (provided they were arranged through the in-house agency), however, incidentals such as WiFi, phone bills, refreshments and books/magazines were strictly monitored and controlled...

        Remember one of the issues arising from the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, was that people stranded in airports etc. started making serious usage of their smartphones (the iPhone was a little over 2 years old hence at the time many smartphones were company phones) and mobile data as they sought to find out more and make alternative arrangements. Because of the lack of direct feedback on the costs being incurred, bills running into the thousands of pounds were relatively common. This resulted in some companies receiving significant mobile phone bills (payable in 30 days)...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fools and their money?

    Once the airlines add their 100% to 1000% markup it will be expensive especially on the so called budget carriers.

    Personally, the hours I spend flying (120+K miles this year) are 'me' time. There is no way in hell that I will sign on and answer stupid emails, enter timesheet data etc while I'm at flight level 33.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Fools and their money?

      > Personally, the hours I spend flying are 'me' time.

      An interesting point, as when flying for work technically the hours in the air are work time, so perhaps technically your employer could insist. But then perhaps coverage would be "spotty" in the little Faraday-cage bag you put your phone in...

      As to this solution being putting a "network" in the plane, it's probably more like a few small cells connected to a router which satellite's back to a special small cell gateway which can cope with the massive round-trip ping times.

      I hope they block handovers when the plane is taking off (assuming some oik will be on their phone at this time, irrespective of flight warnings, or assuming that the airlines have finally allowed electronic devices on take off)...

      1. Shades

        Re: Fools and their money?

        "it's probably more like a few small cells connected to a router"

        I believe this to be true, at least for Emirate and Lufthansa. Phones connect to the cell(s) like any other network, regardless of WiFi being switched on or off (so its not just voice over WiFi). You even get a welcome SMS like when you roam onto a terrestrial network.

        "I hope they block handovers when the plane is taking off"

        Again, with reference to the two aforementioned airlines, they don't switch on the cells or WiFi routers until cruising altitude has been reached (or at least when they switch the seatbelt sign off, whichever comes first). They also allow electronic devices to be switched on during take off and landing as long as they are in flight mode.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Fools and their money?

      enter timesheet data

      Now that you've reminded me...

      I've had to enter time sheet data at various times in my 30 year career for several different companies. Never once has there been any demonstrable value. But to be fair there has never been any come back when I slack off and enter essentially made-up figures either.

      My current job doesn't require time sheets which is nice :)

      Complimentary Dilbert link.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Fools and their money?

        >Never once has there been any demonstrable value

        Apparently there's a tax break against R&D spend on projects you can claim in the UK, but you have to demonstrate a reasonably robust method of measuring what that spend was, and timesheets can be used to demonstrate to HMRC a good faith calculation of actual spend on R&D elements of a project.

        So that's shareholder value in engineers filling in timesheets.

        Now the process of filling in timesheets is another matter. Same as the Dilbert link, I have been in the situation where the bean counters insisted on it being filled in on a Thursday and including a prediction for Friday, that we were expected to correct on the Monday if it was wrong. All that gave was a manglement readout on a weekly basis that finished on a Friday. No value there.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: Fools and their money?

          Yeah, that was the reason at one of my jobs. Although I was assured that no-one ever actually sent them to HMRC. Presumably it's something they ask for if they choose to do an audit?

          At my last place it used to take a month or more to get a code created by HR. Every time we started a new project (even just a minor release) it had to have a new code. But by the time the code came through we'd have finished. So in the meantime we had to use 'software misc'. Naturally when the code finally came through (sometimes three or four at once) we had to go back and fix up the time sheets.

          As to who used them..I really have no idea. The people who were supposed to use them were our managers for determining time scales but they never used them to my knowledge. Anyway six months after they rolled out the time sheets we switched to Scrum poker which to my mind rendered the whole idea moot.

          Other gems: I used to make sure my hours added up to 7.5 a day since that's what I was contracted for. Then my manager's manager told me that looked suspicious. He suggested I add on a couple of hours here and there :-/

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Re: Fools and their money?

            > Although I was assured that no-one ever actually sent them to HMRC. Presumably it's something they ask for if they choose to do an audit?

            Having been thrust into the unfortunate position of having to fill in lots of the tax credit applications for numerous projects for a multinational, I know that the actual timesheets won't be sent to HMRC, but the beancounters will use the rolled up values of hours per project per department (or employee type), and do a glorious Excel SUMPRODUCT equation to come up with their submitted arbitrary number. The timesheet data from everyone involved will then be filed away for N years in the evidence drawer in case HMRC ever asks.

            The negotiation phase with HMRC will involve managers harrumphing over what percentages to use in the final calculation of money rebated - in this instance it is helpful to have very precise data (such as from timesheets) as this gives the company better justification to be inflexible.

      2. Vic

        Re: Fools and their money?

        there has never been any come back when I slack off and enter essentially made-up figures either.

        In my last job, they had a SAP installation put in[1] at great expense. The timesheet system required you to enter exactly 7.5 hours for a normal day, or 3.75 hours for a half-day. Over or under - even if the week balanced out properly - was just not accepted; the timesheet could not be entered.

        It's many years since I've worked exact hours. Some of my timesheets should have won the Booker prize.


        [1] Perhaps "thrown in" would have been more appropriate. Things like internationalisation were somewhat absent...

    3. Vic

      Re: Fools and their money?

      There is no way in hell that I will sign on and answer stupid emails, enter timesheet data etc while I'm at flight level 33.

      FL33 is quite low - I don't think you'll spend much time there. Now as for FL330... :-)


  6. Jason Hindle

    More expensive than in-flight WiFi

    I forget the cost (£5 for a smaller bundle, I think), but using WiFi on an Emirates A380 was pretty reasonable. Roaming onto in-flight cellular, OTOH, is going to be pricey. Good if you absolutely must make and receive calls*, but poor for data.

    * I'd rather not. For me, long haul is about escaping all that for a few hours.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "No faster that..."


  8. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

    I flew from London to LAX and back, and paid about US$20 for unlimited wifi the whole flight. Yes, ping times were awful, and streaming didn't work, But web browsing and facebook chat worked fine, and it was a damn sight more fun talking to my friends, doing some work and reading the register etc than watching a movie on a tiny screen.

    My tablet was on and connected the whole time, except when we went through a few air pockets.

    Now I seriously doubt that "roaming" onto their 3G network is going to be cheaper.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A US carrier?

      As in movies on a loop, paid booze and frumpy flight attendants?

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