The London-based satellite services operator Inmarsat (IMASF) announced plans on Thursday for a 4G in-flight broadband service that would provide fliers across Europe fast internet connections on their smartphones, tablets and laptops.
The service is expected to launch roughly a year following AT&T introducing a similar offering in the US in late 2015.
The in-flight broadband services currently in use such as Gogo Inflight Internet, offer 3G speeds and are mostly not suited for anything more than basic email.
British Airways and Inmarsat are in discussion over the use of the new 4G service. The carrier currently, is not offering Wi-Fi on its flights in Europe due to slow speeds and low consumer demand.
CNN Money quoted a a British Airways spokesperson as saying the demand for in-flight internet access should be much stronger once 4G speeds became available.
According to Kate Thornton, head of product and service at British Airways, this would give the airlines' customers the internet access they expected from the ground while in the air.
Inmarsat would be spending nearly $550 million over the next few years for setting up the 4G network, which involved launching a new satellite into the atmosphere and building on-the-ground towers that would jointly transmit signals to planes.
The London-based firm would link aircraft to the internet via cellphone towers on the ground that had been modified to point skywards.
The service would be augmented with a new spacecraft, ensuring passengers experienced an unbroken onboard wi-fi service.
According to the company, its hybrid network would also support a range of other services.
These would likely include high-resilience communications that could be used by government agencies in security situations or in disaster response.
The company is expecting that the ability to drive connections through a ground tower-infrastructure, rather than just through a traditional satellite network, could dramatically increase the capacity of those connections while at the same time substantially reducing the cost of the wi-fi tariffs offered to passengers.
Inmarsat, which shot into prominence with its role in the search for the lost Malaysian jet MH370 is the UK's biggest space company.