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In-flight Wi-Fi services to be available by year's end, at a cost

Top Chinese airlines, including China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, will charge passengers for in-flight Wi-Fi services from the end of this year.

Top Chinese airlines, including China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, will charge passengers for in-flight Wi-Fi services from the end of this year, China Telecom told Shanghai Daily today. 

After equipment upgrades and system tests, Wi-Fi services will begin for all passengers in wide-body aircraft operating domestic lines, and all international lines by the end of this year. 

China Eastern and Hainan Airlines are the first carriers to offer the paid service, an official at China Telecom’s satellite communications subsidiary said during the Mobile World Congress Shanghai (MWCS).

China Telecom won’t charge passengers directly. Instead, they offer in-flight bandwidth resources to airline firms, Shanghai Daily learned through an exclusive interview.

Up until now, China Telecom has offered in-flight Wi-Fi services to 1.71 million passengers on 120 aircraft from carriers like China Eastern, Hainan Airlines and Air China. 

Airlines declined to comment on the issue today. 

At present airlines offer free in-flight Wi-Fi services to limited passengers. For example, China Eastern offers free service to the first 100 passengers during Shanghai-Beijing flights. 

In-flight Wi-Fi is a relatively new service in China since the ban on smartphone use has only recently been lifted.

In January, the Civil Administration of China (CAAC) announced they would relax regulations and allowed passengers to use smartphones in-flight.

Previously, mobile phones were required to be completely switched off during flights on all Chinese airlines.

The Wi-Fi bandwidth is up to 10 megabytes per second for each aircraft, which is still limited compared with standard family broadband networks. But that's not a problem for Internet browsing, email and social services including WeChat. 

Besides offering Wi-Fi, airlines can also seek e-commerce and online traveling business opportunities through the new service, said Fairlink, which offers in-flight Wi-Fi system upgrades and operation.


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