Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

Lufthansa Europe Flights to Get Web Access in Inmarsat Deal

  • Airline to offer Internet service on Europe flights in 2016
  • Satellites to be linked to Deutsche Telekom's wireless network

Europe’s passengers are set to get Web access on planes through a deal by satellite operator Inmarsat Plc and phone carrier Deutsche Telekom AG, as the companies seek to work with airline customers such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

Inmarsat will combine its satellites with a Deutsche Telekom ground network to provide high-speed Internet to air travelers, according to a statement from Inmarsat on Monday. Lufthansa plans to offer passengers Web access on European routes via its Airbus A320 fleet of 180 planes starting next summer using Inmarsat’s separate global service.

“We will be pioneers for broadband Internet on board,” Lufthansa Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr told reporters in Frankfurt. Passengers will be able to browse the Web and send e-mail as well as use services allowing them to book flights and order groceries for delivery at home upon arrival. Pricing will depend on a passenger’s ticket fare, seating class and frequent-traveler status, Spohr said.

While U.S. airlines including JetBlue Airways Corp. already offer in-flight Internet access, taking off in Europe has so far largely meant being cut off from the Web. Four in ten Internet users would like to surf the Web while on board a plane, German digital-industry group Bitkom said in August, citing a poll it conducted with 1,014 people in Germany.

Deutsche Telekom will build 300 sites using high-speed LTE technology, CEO Timotheus Hoettges said at the event. That network will link with Inmarsat’s satellites to provide full coverage and capacity in the high-density European airspace. Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat, which are also working with Alcatel-Lucent and Thales SA, are open to more airlines joining, Hoettges said.

Lufthansa has been offering broadband Internet on its long-haul flights with Panasonic Avionics Corp. since 2010. Inmarsat expects the service to provide “high” profit margins for the company in coming years, CEO Rupert Pearce said last year.

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