For many consumers mobile connectivity is now an expectation, as blackspots in which users can’t use their phones become fewer. The quest to provide a mobile connection has taken to the skies, with inflight mobile service the latest to be targeted by the industry. AeroMobile works with airline carriers and mobile operators to provide a mobile network that activates at 20,000 ft.
Speaking to Mobile, marketing and revenue development director, Jack Gordon (pictured) said: ‘AeroMobile is a mobile operator and we are specialists within the aviation space. We’re not a virtual operator, we are a full-blown network operator with our own hardware, but we don’t have a network on the ground, our base stations are in aircraft.
‘Within the aircraft we have a standard mobile network and we provide data, text messaging and calls to passengers in flight and that works the same way as roaming does. We have roaming agreements with the mobile operators on the ground. We focus on making agreements with operators located where our partnered airlines are based and where they fly too; we have the majority of the world covered.’
AeroMobile has 100% coverage in the UK, which means it has agreements with all the main mobile networks. Gordon explained that inflight connectivity has encouraged operators to expand roaming from the ground to the skies. He said: ‘Mobile operators are trying to provide the best experience for their own subscribers, whether that be for consumers or for business customers that are looking to travel. Being connected is key, and now with the advent of inflight connectivity, roaming doesn’t just start when you land, roaming starts when you take off.
‘Operators see the value in that sort of flight travel experience and the subscribers are starting to use it. Mobile operators are looking to make the experience one that all passengers can benefit from. We’re always adding new agreements and operators to our existing agreements. Customer behaviour changes quickly; in a few years’ time when customers are on a flight, there will be an eyebrow raised if the flight isn’t connected. Aircraft carriers know they need connectivity and now they ask how to incorporate it into their aircraft.’
AeroMobile currently operates its service across 13 airlines including Emirates, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic. The company installs specialist technology inside aircraft, which then links with satellites to route connectivity from mobile operator base stations back on the ground. Gordon says that while the technology is ‘pretty similar across providers’, AeroMobile’s partnership with Panasonic, as part of its Communications Suite, allows the technology to ‘blend seamlessly with its in-cabin experience’. He explained that mobile connectivity is the next step in providing inflight entertainment: ‘Airlines are always looking at improving the passenger experience; some airlines are looking to be the very best of the best, and provide the ultimate cabin experience with mobile connectivity.
‘The connectivity aspect is so ingrained in people’s daily lives, and what we’re seeing is that the service is there and people are really taking advantage of it. The most popular services within the network are data and SMS, with voice used a little bit less.’
Gordon stated that while inflight connectivity was initially targeted at B2B customers, there is a growing demand on the consumer side, with leisure airline routes reported to be using the AeroMobile service the most. He said: ‘Initially, the business segments were more attracted to the connectivity aspect, but what we see now is that many of the routes where we had a higher leisure demographic are using the service more than B2B customers. It’s rapidly moving towards a mainstream, mass market.
‘We’ve got 13 airlines to date and obviously there are hundreds of airlines. This is an exciting new area for growth and we are expecting to run the service on many more airlines in the future. It’s still early days but what we offer is certainly disruptive. It’s not necessarily a new technology but it is new within the aviation space and it is setting new expectations for the passengers’ experience and connectivity.’