Finally internet connectivity on South African flights

October 2011 saw the approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of South Africa approving the application by technology companies Wireless G and Row 44 to install in-flight Wi-Fi equipment on board South African commercial aircraft allowing passengers access to surf the internet, check their email and update their social networks for the first time on local flights. However, passengers will still not be able to make cell phone calls.

The new service is likely only to come into effect in February 2012, and the service would be available on all devices that could connect to the internet via Wi-Fi. Cell phones will only connect to the network using the Wi-Fi signal whilst the GSM signal is switched off. Phone calls using GSM and connections to the internet using GSM will therefore not be possible.

The low-cost domestic carrier Mango Airlines, operated by South African Airways, will be the first to offer the service and prices are expected to be offered lower than current 3G rates for users. They intend to provide uncapped access for the duration of the flight on a fixed fee basis rather than charge customers on a per MB basis as with standard offerings in South Africa.

This additional service will provide business travelers with constant connectivity on domestic flights within South Africa, and will be an added advantage over the competition in the domestic market for the airline offering greater amenities in-flight.

Although initially the Wifi equipment will only be installed on Mango’s Boeing 737-800 aircraft, but both Mango Airlines and Wireless G have stated plans to increase their offering throughout the 2012 year similar to the roll-out processes used by low cost domestic airlines in the United States.

This service, which works via satellite, will be moderated to exclude access to potentially offensive web content, but there will be no sign up costs and no contract tie-ins for passengers. Wireless 3G have signed an agreement with Row 44, the US based company that provides internet service on board domestic flights in the US.

The introduction of Wi-Fi internet on Mango’s flights will allow passengers with laptops and smart phones to access the service simply and conveniently while on board their flights, bringing the South African domestic flights a little closer to the international standards.