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SA airspace becomes cyberspace

In a first for South Africa, Wireless G, together with Mango and Vodacom have announced Wi-Fi in the sky. By using G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi, Mango Guests can now surf the web when travelling between South Africa’s major centres, at 30 000 feet.

G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi allows for full Internet connectivity on board Mango’s aircraft, including sending and receiving emails, web browsing as well as the use of all social networks. An air-to-land SMS service will also be available, managed through a web service.

“The G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi service is offered in a totally new, integrated model and its regarded as a 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 eco-systems makes in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity more relevant. Moreover, the specific way in which it is offered as an integrated telecommunications internet access medium, is essential for our future plans,‚ said van der Merwe.

Mango CEO Nico Bezuidenhout said that the introduction of on-board connectivity fulfils the airline’s on-going ideal of innovation in aviation and its 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.‚ Mango was the first airline to retail air travel through supermarkets (Shoprite / Checkers) and remains the only airline in the world to accept store charge cards (Edgars / Jet).

The service is compatible with most Wi-Fi enabled devices including smartphones, tablets and laptops. By converting their satellite infrastructure, Vodacom has ensured that the G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi service will keep people connected even as they travel at over 800km/h. ‚This takes the notion of a mobile device to a whole new level ‚ literally. We know how much customers value being connected: in fact 88% of people surveyed said they’d like to have broadband access when they fly. Vodacom prides itself on having the widest network coverage and thanks to our satellite technology the sky is no longer the limit,‚ said Chris Ross, Vodacom’s head of Commercial Operations.

There are three different G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi packages on offer. One-Way Access is priced at R50 per single sector flight with a One Day pass available at R90, irrespective of the number of flights completed during a 20 hour period. A per-minute option, billed through G-Connect online account, offers land and air convergence at R1 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‚ , concluded Van Der Merwe.

The roll-out of the G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi service should see 80% of Mango’s fleet online by end June 2012.

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