Making phone calls or browsing internet has so far been a dream for Bangladeshi passengers while on a flight, but the wait would soon be over as Biman Bangladesh Airlines is set to introduce the service in September.
Once the service is introduced, travellers will be able to use free Wi-Fi of 3G speed, make phone calls across the globe and watch nine television channels live.
Biman will give 20 megabyte free data to every passenger for using in mobile phones or any other devices or monitors, said Shakil Meraj, a general manager of Biman.
“We will offer the service as the first carrier in the country,” said Meraj.
He said Biman is getting delivery of four new Dreamliners and the first one will join its fleet in August. All the Dreamliner aircraft will offer inflight mobile and internet service. Biman is yet to fix the tariff to be levied on phone calls or prices for additional data consumption.
“The service will brighten the image of the national flag carrier,” said Meraj.
Biman has received the green light from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) about the new service. The carrier has signed a deal with Panasonic Aviation Corporation, which will provide the service at home and abroad via 25 satellites.
According to a joint presentation of Biman and Panasonic Aviation, the national carrier will set up a base station in every aircraft to ensure backhaul connectivity in order to allow passengers to use internet and make phone calls.
BTRC officials said they have given the approval under some conditions: the service will be switched off during takeoff and landing; it can't create any problem for the local mobile phone operators' billing system, and it can't disrupt the country's terrestrial service.
Biman has upgraded its IT infrastructure at a cost of Tk 4 crore to get ready for the service. The carrier will have to pay $2,000 in fees to the BTRC every year.
Meraj said the airline will also ensure different types of inflight entertainment services and has developed onboard services. Meanwhile, officials said the Dreamliners are being prepared for delivery and are now at Boeing's Seattle hangar for painting. The two-engine carrier has 271 seats and consumes 20 percent less fuel than Boeing-767.
The second Dreamliner will be delivered in November and the last two in the second half of next year, said officials.
In 2008, Biman signed an agreement with Boeing to buy 10 brand new Boeing-787s for $2.1 billion. It has already received six.
Biman with 12 aircraft travels to 15 international and seven domestic destinations.