China / Society

Air China's in-flight Web access put to test

By Zhao Lei (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-17 11:11

Passengers on two planes post entries, photos during trial run

Passengers flying with Air China will soon be able to access the Internet during their flights, the company said on Wednesday after a successful trial run.

On Wednesday, Air China passengers on flight CA4116 from Beijing to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and passengers on flight CA4109 from Chengdu to Beijing became the first in China to use their computers and personal electronic devices to surf the Internet during their flight.

The Internet service started when the airplanes climbed to an altitude of more than 3,000 meters but was powered down during takeoff and landing to comply with Chinese civil aviation regulations.

Several passengers posted entries and photos to show they were using the in-flight Internet service on their Sina Weibo micro-blogging accounts during the flights. Some said they were able to have video chats with family members or friends on the ground.

Fan Cheng, a senior executive at Air China who was on board flight CA4116, took part in a video teleconference that included colleagues on board flight CA4109 as well as staff members at air control and operations centers in Beijing and Chengdu.

Xiao Yang, a singer from the Chopstick Brothers, a Chinese pop duo, performed on flight CA4116 with his partner Wang Taili on board CA4109.

Air China said in a statement on Wednesday that the in-flight Wi-Fi service is able to provide users up to 30 megabytes of bandwidth through a wireless connection with ground telecommunication stations. The system, which is called Air-to-Ground network, boasts cutting-edge 4G technologies, it added.

Live TV programs on three China Central Television channels were also available on both flights, according to the carrier.

But the service is still in its trial phase. The company said it is testing out three of its aircraft equipped with the Internet network. Passengers will not be charged for using the service when it is made widely available, Air China said.

Tried for first time

In July 2013, Air China tested its in-flight Internet service on a flight from Beijing to Chengdu.

Journalists and VIPs invited by the company tested the service, which was developed based on satellite telecommunications technology and offered a narrow bandwidth of up to 864 kilobytes per second. They sent e-mails and browsed news on an online platform.

"By the end of this year, most of Air China's wide-body passenger jets will have been refitted and equipped with access to the Internet," Fan said.

Air China began to develop its own Internet system in 2010, said Zhang Yun, manager of the company's Internet project. He said the system has passed safety and airborne compatibility tests from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and added that the safety of the aircraft will not be compromised if the Internet system is hacked.

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