x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Broadband on board with Etihad's $1bn deal

Etihad Airways has signed a $1 billion deal to upgrade its inflight entertainment systems to offer broadband internet, mobile phone services, and live television.

Etihad Airways has signed a deal with Panasonic valued at more than US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) to offer passengers broadband internet, mobile phone services and live television on its flights.

The announcement comes as competition heats up between carriers in the region.

The entertainment and communications services will become available across the airline's long-haul fleet of wide-body aircraft, Etihad said.

"It is essential that we offer the most engaging and dynamic in-flight entertainment for our guests - especially on long-haul flights," said James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad.

Gulf Air announced last month it had taken delivery of the first aircraft in the world to feature live satellite television streaming across continents.

The Bahraini carrier's entertainment system, Sky Hub, would also offer broadband connectivity for internet and mobile phone services, it said.

Gulf Air teamed up with Panasonic Avionics and Deutsche Telekom to provide the services.

Oman Air started offering mobile and broadband internet on its flights in August. The Etihad deal represents a significant upgrade on the carrier's existing offerings. Its current in-flight entertainment system offers a selection of films, TV shows and music, while passengers are also able to make telephone calls on board.

"As electronic and wireless devices become the norm for passengers, so too is the need to develop in-flight capabilities to maximise connections for customers and airlines," said Saj Ahmad, an analyst at FBE Aerospace in London. "As customer demands grow and airlines seek to offer better products, we'll see billions of dollars spent on in-flight entertainment."

Etihad has signed a letter of intent for a 10-year agreement with Panasonic Avionics for in-flight entertainment and communications, which include mobile phone services in conjunction with AeroMobile.

In 2006, Emirates became AeroMobile's first customer when it signed an agreement with the company, based in London.

Etihad is on track to break even with revenue of $3.9bn expected for this year, Bloomberg News said yesterday. Passenger numbers were up by 18 per cent to 2.25 million in the third quarter compared with the same period last year.

rbundhun@thenational.ae