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OnAir is a company that enables airline passengers to use their mobile phones and laptops for calls, text messaging, emails and Internet browsing. By May 2014, OnAir’s services were available in over 60 countries; used by 22 airlines flying over five continents.
The company is a fully owned subsidiary of SITA, originally incorporated as a joint venture with Airbus in February 2005. In February 2013 Airbus sold its 33% final stake to SITA. The company is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and has operations in Seattle and sales offices in London, Singapore and Dubai.
- 1 Services
- 2 Technology
- 3 Customers
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 External links
OnAir offers three services which aircraft operators can order together or separately:
- Internet OnAir is a Wi-Fi network which offers Internet access at broadband speed to passengers.
- Mobile OnAir is a cellphone service which offers mobile telephony, SMS and narrowband Internet access (56 kbit/s) and so allows passengers to make and receive calls on their mobile phones, send and receive text messages and emails and use the Internet. Airlines can restrict usage of these services at discretion enabling them to ban voice calls and allow only SMS and Internet access instead. Lufthansa is one airline following this restrictive approach due to passengers' alleged desire for quiet during flights.
- Link OnAir' is a managed network service that allows airlines to use the IP-based satellite connection used by the aforementioned services for other applications, such as supplying in-flight entertainment systems with news content or Internet access and providing mission-critical information and communication services to air crews.
- OnAir Play' combines inflight connectivity with films, TV, live news, music, games, magazines and newspapers. Passengers have access to a full range of content including live news and sport, updated throughout the flight and can buy destination-based goods and services to ease their arrival.
All three services share the same satellite connection to the ground.
OnAir’s technology has been certified for use on many types of aircraft – both private and commercial jets including Boeing and Airbus – for short and long haul. In most cases, it is available for linefit or retrofit.
OnAir's onboard system is based on a Wi-Fi access point and/or a GSM picocell connected to the ground through a satellite link. All onboard equipment, except for the satellite antenna, fits into a hand-luggage compartment.
OnAir offers the satellite connectivity required for its onboard services using Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband service operating in the L band and prospectively Inmarsat's Ka band-based Global Xpress system which is expected to be launched in 2015. However customers are free to use third-party services for the backhaul to the ground. 90% of the onboard equipment can be used with any radio link, for example other satellite networks or a direct air-to-ground link.
Due to the limited bandwidth of only 864 kbit/s offered by OnAir today and its inability to feed in live television in February 2013 Emirates, one of OnAir's largest customers, has selected a Ku band-based service provided by OnAir's rival Panasonic Avionics (Global Communications Suite (GCS)) for its fleet of Boeing 777s and future Airbus A380 deliveries, while existing Airbus A380s for now remain connected through OnAir's service.
Inmarsat SwiftBroadband (L band)
A satellite data unit (SDU) manufactured by Thales and branded TopConnect establishes a backhaul link to the ground through Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband geostationary satellite constellation operating in the L band around 1500 MHz which allows the use of electronically steerable antennas mounted atop the aircraft fuselage and encased within a fiberglass, RF-transparent radome that have a low profile compared to systems operating in the Ku band or Ka band which today still require mechanically steerable antennas with a significantly higher profile. Thus drag and fuel costs are reduced allowing economical operation even on smaller aircraft like business or regional jets. Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband system covers much of the planet except for the polar regions above −82 and below +82 degrees latitude and currently provides symmetric data rates of up to 432 kbit/s per channel dependent on signal quality and overall load on the satellite's spotbeam serving the corresponding geographical area. Currently the Thales SDU can bond two channels resulting in a maximum bandwidth of 864 kbit/s.
Inmarsat GlobalXpress (Ka band)
There is also a clear upgrade path from SwiftBroadband to Inmarsat's Global Xpress system, a constellation of three Ka band satellites which will come on stream in 2014-2015 and will globally provide downlink bandwidths of up to 50 Mbit/s. OnAir was appointed as distribution partner for Inmarsat's Global Xpress service in November 2011.
A server installed onboard manages the satellite connection and routes the data traffic while also compressing and decompressing all data transmitted, including GSM phone calls that are recoded using the AMR codec which reduces bandwidth while maintaining a voice quality virtually indistinguishable from the native GSM codec.
Broadband Internet access (Internet OnAir) is provided by Wi-Fi access points. In order to access OnAir's Wi-Fi Internet service (Internet OnAir) passengers need to bring a Wi-Fi compatible device. Access can usually be purchased on board.
A picocell operating according to the GSM-1800 standard provides a GSM network (Mobile OnAir) enabling voice telephony, SMS and narrowband Internet access (GPRS). The GSM signal is distributed by a leaky line antenna, essentially a coaxial cable with a slotted shielding through which RF signals are radiated. This coaxial cable is installed above the ceiling panels along the whole aircraft cabin and provides a uniform linear coverage of the aircraft cabin at very low radiation power levels. In order to prevent handsets from connecting to terrestrial networks which would lead to high transmission power levels a so-called network control unit (NCU) installed onboard generates a broadband noise floor which is being emitted through the existing leaky line antenna masking reception of terrestrial mobile networks within the aircraft. These measures ensure that handsets can only connect to the onboard GSM network and will then operate with the lowest possible transmission power level (GSM-1800 power control level 15, nominal output power of 0 dBm) which results in significantly lower radiation levels than those experienced on average when using a mobile phone with terrestrial networks on the ground. The GSM network is being realized based on Monaco Telecom's core network. It uses the MCC / MNC tuple 901-15 assigned to SITA, one of OnAir's two owners, in March 2005.
Passenger Equipment Compatibility
OnAir's inflight cellphone service (Mobile OnAir) requires a mobile phone supporting the GSM-1800 standard, also called DCS (Digital Cellular Service), which most modern GSM phones support as well as a SIM card from a network operator having a roaming agreement with Monaco Telcom. So-called quad-band handsets always support GSM-1800 and so are compatible with Mobile OnAir.
The system can also provide IP-based connectivity to existing in-flight entertainment systems which allows news content to be fed in and messaging services as well as Internet access to be offered on in-seat units.
OnAir's customers which have been publicly announced are:
- Aeroflot – A320, A330 (2010)
- Afriqiyah Airways - A319, A320 & A330 (2010)
- Air Asia - A320 - Mid 2009
- Air Blue - A320 - Mid-2009
- Air France - Trial in an A318 - 2007-2008
- Air New Zealand – A320 (2011)
- All Nippon Airways – Boeing 767 and Boeing 777 (2012)
- AZAL Azerbaijan Airlines – Airbus and Boeing (2012)
- British Airways - A318 (only from City Airport to JFK) - Mid 2009
- British Midland Airways - Trial in an A320 - 2009
- Cebu Pacific Air – A330 and A320 in a second phase (2012)
- Egypt Air - A330 (2010)
- Emirates (airline) - use OnAir across a fleet of 90 A380 airliners, with roll-out of service that began in Autumn 2011
- Etihad Airways – A320, A330-300 (2012)
- Finnair – A330 (2013)
- Hong Kong Airlines - A330 - Service launched in March 2012
- Iberia – A330 and A340 (2013)
- Kingfisher Airlines - A330 and A340 - Mid-2009
- Libyan Airlines - A320 & A330 (2010)
- Oman Air - A330 - 2009 - was the first to take OnAir’s integrated GSM and inflight wifi service
- Qantas - A380 (late 2008). In service from March to December 2012. Will be included on the new B787s, when they enter operation in 2018.
- Qatar Airways - A320 (End 2009) - Boeing 787 (May 2010)
- Royal Jordanian - A320 (2008) and A340 (2009)
- Ryanair - Boeing 737 - Service started Feb-2009, ended March 2010
- Saudi Arabian Airlines - A330 - Mid 2010 - B777 (September2013). Expansion to B787s, when they enter in operation in 2015.
- Shenzhen Airlines - Boeing 737 and A320 - Mid-2009
- Singapore Airlines - A320 & A330 (2010) - plans to use OnAir across its fleet of A380, Boeing 777, A340-500 – starting first half of 2012. Announced in Oct. 2010
- TAM Airlines - A320 (2008) First aircraft launched in October 2010. Expansion to another 26 aircraft announced in February 2011, all to be operational by the end of 2011
- TAP Portugal - Trial in an A319 - 2008, A330 and A350 (announced at Aircraft Interiors 2012)
- Thai Airways – A330 and A380 (2012)
- Wataniya Airways - A320 - Service started Jan. 2009
- Philippine Airlines - A330 & B777 (2013)
- Garuda Indonesia - A330 & B777 (2013)
- Kuwait Airways – To be installed on A320 & A330 aircraft in 2014 and 2015
- SriLankan Airlines – A330–300 
- TAAG Angola Airlines – Inflight GSM and Wi-Fi to be available in 2014 on 777-300ER aircraft
Cruise ship operators:
Private jet operators and VIP:
- Comlux the Aviation Group - A320 Prestige (2010) & A319 CJ (2011)
- Dasnair - Falcon 7X (2011)
- Solar Impulse - Solar Impulse HB-SIA (2010)
- Amjet Executive - Amjet Executive SA SX-JET (2013)
- Mary Kirby (11 February 2013). "Exclusive: Airbus exits inflight connectivity business with sale of OnAir stake to SITA". APEX. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
- "Global Distribution Systems & Technology Partners".
- Focus (22 September 2011). "Lufthansa: Ja zur SMS im Flieger, nein zu Telefonaten". Focus. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
- "Philippine Airlines to be launch customer for OnAir Play".
- "Oman Air launches full mobile phone and wi-fi connectivity aboard new Airbus A330s".
- "The new inflight 'must have': An interview with OnAir CEO Ian Dawkins".
- "Emirates puts emphasis on inflight live television as mammoth deal with Panasonic is revealed".
- Mary Kirby (21 August 2012). "Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband is about to get swifter for airlines, business jet operators". APEX.
- Mary Kirby (8 February 2013). "Emirates puts emphasis on inflight live television as mammoth deal with Panasonic is revealed". APEX. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- "Thales launches connectivity demonstrator suite".
- OnAir (29 November 2011). "OnAir selected by Inmarsat as Global Xpress Distribution Partner" (PDF). OnAir. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
- "FARNBOROUGH: Emirates to fit 90 A380s with OnAir connectivity". Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- "SriLankan Airlines flies its first fully-connected aircraft". 13 Nov 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- OnAir Confirms Appointment Of Dawkins As CEO Jun. 2010
- European 25 Most Creative Companies July 2010
- Emirates to Equip 90 A380s For WiFi, Phone Calls, Web-Surfing Jul. 2010
- Interiors: OnAir Seeks New Ties For Qatar 787 Deal Sep. 2010
- Singapore To Equip A380s, 777s With Internet Access Oct. 2010
- Aircraft Bomb Finds May Spell End For Inflight WiFi Nov. 2010
- Upwardly Mobile Nov. 2010
- OnAir Wins Aviation Business Award At Middle East Ceremony Dec. 2010
- Is it really dangerous to use a cell phone on a plane? Jan. 2011
- OnAir Increases Connectivity with TAM Feb 2011
- TAM Expands Deal To Fit OnAir Connectivity To Airbus Feb 2011
- Comlux business jet gets connected with OnAir May 2011
- Dasnair's Falcon 7X passengers fully connected by OnAir in world first May 2011
- Lightweight inflight connectivity solution launched May 2011
- Singapore Airlines Economy-class innovation: Improved in-seat entertainment, Aug. 2011
- Inflight Wi-Fi revenues to surpass USD 1.5bn in 2015, Sep 2011
- British Airways' all-business class service to NY 'to be profitable within a year', Sep 2011
- British Airways' Business-Only Flights to New York Make Their Mark After two Years, Oct 2011
- Aviation Week, Airbus To Line-Fit OnAir On Emirates A380 Dec 2011
- Apex Editor’s Blog, Etihad reveals OnAir as connectivity partner Jan. 2012
- Inmarsat set to further tap potentials of ME segments, Jan 2012
- A look inside Hong Kong Airlines' new luxury HK-London cabin, Feb 2012* Voice and video calls via Wi-Fi from 30,000 feet?, Feb 2012
- THAI Airways selects OnAir in-flight connectivity on new fleet, March 2012
- OnAir targets first Global Xpress commitments, March 2012
- OnAir Connectivity Enabled on Emirates A380 Fleet, March 2012
- First deployment of OnAir/TriaGnoSys inflight connectivity solution through Scandinavian Avionics, March 2012
- Why airlines have been slow to add Wi-Fi to intercontinental flights, March 2012
- Hands-on review: Qantas' A380 in-flight wifi Internet trials, March 2012
- TAM e Oi reduzem em 50% as tarifas para celular a bordo March 2012
- Thai Airways to launch inflight Internet on new Airbus A380s, March 2012
- Azerbaijan Airlines to Launch OnAir In-Flight Web Services Jan 2012
- OnAir selected by Inmarsat as Global Xpress Partner Jan 2012
- TAM Airlines se ratifica como la compañía con la mayor flota de aviones de Brasil Jan 2012
- Singapore Airlines Airbus A380s get inflight Internet April 2012
- Teddies to trinkets, airlines eye sales in the sky June 2012
- Inflight connectivity – when can we have it across our entire fleet?
- ANA to Offer Wi-FI on International Flights
- Saudia's new B777s enter service with full connectivity
- Garuda Indonesia plans inflight Wi-Fi for Australia flights
- Philippine Airlines becomes first airline customer of TriaGnoSys' Inflight GSMConneX connectivity hardware
- OnAir backs FCC proposal to end US ban on inflight cell phone use
- OnAir Expands Presence in Africa, Middle East
- Qatar DOES want broadband after all
- Yes, You Can Use Your Phone On a Plane. Just Not to Talk