Five brands in the realms of aviation and telecommunication have united into the Seamless Air Alliance: Airbus, Delta, OneWeb, Sprint and Bharti Airtel. The objective of this alliance is to find solutions to provide mobile data access during flights.

So far, several companies integrate Wi-Fi in their planes but it is usually costly and connection quality depends on the technology used. For example, American company AirCell uses a terrestrial network of antennas aimed at providing Internet access in-cabins. American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) or Delta uses this service.

But a land-based service has its limitations: it is only accessible during continental flights. It is indeed impossible so far to set up an antenna network oversea.

The Seamless Air Alliance is exploring another solution. OneWeb, one of the members of the Alliance and a rival of SpaceX, will provide a fleet of Low Earth Orbit satellites that would be able to provide the same quality of connection that passengers could expect on the ground, and at a reduced price.

A similar project already exists in Europe: the European Aviation Network. Launched by Deutsche Telekom, Inmarsat and Nokia in January 2018, it has the particularity of being a hybrid ground/satellite network. However, this service is being operated independently, while the connection offered by the Seamless Air Alliance aims to be billed by the user’s telephone provider.

The first satellite should be launched later in 2018 with the goal of setting up the OneWeb satellite constellation by the end of 2019. As for 5G roaming in an airplane, it should be available around late 2020.