Thai low-cost airline Nok Air will launch free in-flight WiFi this summer, courtesy of Ku-band capacity provided by satellite operator Thaicom.
Six of Nok Air's fleet will be equipped in time to be up and running in July and plans are in place to offer WiFi in another 30 aircraft in the near future. Last year, Nok air transported nearly six million passengers.
Thaicom's chief marketing officer Patompob Suwansiri said the aim is to offer passengers a "3G-like experience", providing them with a maximum connection speed of 8 Mbps.
"Connectivity is going to play a big role…in the travel business," said Patee Sarasin, CEO of Nok Air, at a press conference at CommunicAsia on Wednesday.
Despite having to cover the cost of fitting out his aircraft with the requisite equipment, leasing capacity from Thaicom, and contracting in-flight services provider Global Eagle Entertainment to package and operate the service, Sarasin said it makes sense to give away WiFi for free.
"WiFi started off being charged for because it was new," he said. "But it eventually became such a commodity that people just expect it."
He is confident that offering in-flight WiFi will help him gain a competitive advantage over local rival low-cost airlines like Air Asia.
"This is going to drive customers to our seats…This is going to make money for us," he said. "Air Asia can just stuff it."