Mango Airlines, South African Airways’ budget-fare subsidiary, has operated Africa’s first broadband Internet-enabled flight.
On May 9, in-flight broadband service provider Row 44, Inc. and its African partner, Wireless G, in association with Mango Airlines and Vodacom, launched the G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi service on Mango. The carrier operates five Boeing 737-800 jets, each painted bright orange.
The service provides Mango’s passengers with full Internet connectivity through their personal Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Services include e-mail, web browsing, access to all social networks, and a web-based air-to-ground SMS service.
Mango and its partners launched the service on the evening of May 9, 2012 at Lanseria International Airport near Johannesburg.
“The G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi service is offered in a totally new, integrated model which is a first of its kind in the world and which can be regarded as a new carrier-grade telecommunications access medium,” said Wireless G CEO, Carel van der Merwe.
“Social networks and the tsunami of next generation Wi-Fi-enabled devices and the related converged ecosystems makes in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity more relevant,” added van der Merwe. “Moreover, the specific way in which it is offered as an integrated telecommunications Internet access medium is essential for our future convergence plans.”
Nico Bezuidenhout, the CEO of South African Airways low-cost subsidiary Mango, said the introduction of on-board connectivity helped fulfill the airline’s desire for product differentiation.
“In a highly competitive market where everything tastes like chicken, it’s important to taste like beef. Innovation is a cornerstone of our business, along with sustained affordable fares, that are relative to the prevailing market,” said Bezuidenhout.
Vodacom provides the satellite infrastructure to ensure that the G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi service keeps people connected as they travel at over 800 kmh (500 mph).
“This takes the notion of a mobile device to a whole new level – literally,” said Sipho Maseko, CEO of Vodacom. “We know how much customers value being connected; in fact 88 per cent of people surveyed said they’d like to have broadband access when they fly.”
“Row 44 congratulates Wireless G and its partners, Mango and Vodacom, on this impressive accomplishment in being the first partnership to deliver a true in-flight broadband experience to South Africa, one of the world’s most important commercial and cultural centers,” said Row 44’s CEO, John LaValle.
The roll-out of the G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi service is underway and according to Mango Airlines should see 80 per cent of the airline’s fleet – that is, four of its five aircraft – online by the end of June. Mango’s entire fleet will be outfitted by the end of the year, according to the partners.
Mango Airlines has three different G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi packages on offer. One-Way Access is priced at ZAR50 (US$6) per single-sector flight. A One Day pass is available at ZAR90 ($11), irrespective of the number of flights completed during a 20-hour period.
A per-minute option, billed through a G-Connect online account, offers land and air convergence at ZAR1 (US$0.12) per minute. All three packages offer unlimited data use during the allotted time.
The service will be monitored continually with real-time support available to users. Data-heavy services like YouTube and peer-to-peer downloads will, however, be disallowed.
“This is done to ensure the quality of the service remains unimpeded. We already have plans in place to expand the G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi product offering further in a second phase, where we aim to include IPTV and other entertainment services,” said Van Der Merwe.