In-flight WiFi ready for takeoff

As passenger volumes continue to grow, aviation experts and industry insiders see strong potential for Internet services aboard Chinese carriers.
In-flight WiFi ready for takeoff
Ti Gong

An expert with European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment discusses in-flight internet service at the Connected Aircraft China Congress 2019 on Thursday.

In-flight WiFi service has strong market potential in China amid growing passenger volumes in the country, industry leaders and experts said at a recent forum in Shanghai.

"The number of domestic passengers is expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2035, bringing unprecedented development opportunities for in-flight connectivity service," Xin Xudong, deputy general manager of the customer service unit under Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), told the Connected Aircraft China Congress 2019.

About 170 officials and experts from airlines, aircraft makers and communication operators shared their views on in-flight internet services during the forum on Wednesday and Thursday. The event was jointly organized by COMAC Shanghai Aircraft Customer Service Co. and Galleon (Shanghai) Consulting Co.

Domestic airliners transported some 610 million passengers in 2018, mostly young mobile internet users, but the coverage of WiFi services is only 10 percent among Chinese carriers, according to data shared at the forum.

China lifted a ban on the use of portable electronic devices on planes in 2018.

China Eastern Airlines has finished installing WiFi hardware on its wide-body fleet, Shi Guangyu, a senior engineer with the Shanghai-based carrier, told the forum. A total of 111 long-haul airliners are offering in-flight WiFi services to passengers.

Chinese tech giant Huawei also holds a positive outlook on in-flight Internet service.

China is expected to surpass the United States to become the world's largest civil aviation market on transport volume by 2025, but in-flight internet services continue to lag, said Zhang Nan, the chief engineer with Huawei Technologies Co's aviation unit.

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