Cathay Pacific promises broadband, GSM and live TV

Cathay Pacific has announced plans to equip its entire fleet with full broadband, GSM cellphone service and live television, the first airline in the world do do so.

Through a deal with Panasonic Avionics, the airline says it will launch the services in early 2012.

The eXConnect broadband system offers speeds up to 50Mbps to the aircraft, says Cathay Pacific, which will be used by crew as well as passengers.

The phone service will alllow voice and data calls on cellphones,  iPods and iPads. Cathay warns users that it retains full control over the services offered, including restricting certain services when appropriate – so no porn if you’re sitting next to a child, one presumes.

The entertainment system will carry a range of content updated during the flight, access to airline and partner sites, e-commerce and live television with a pay-per-view capability for special events.

“Connectivity will form an important part of our overall customer proposition. Having that connectivity integrated closely with our video on demand entertainment system is especially valuable as it means that all passengers will be able to use the service,” said Alex McGowan, head of product for Cathay Pacific.

“We believe that being connected is now an expected part of everyday life – not just for business purposes but also to stay in touch with family and friends. This system will allow passengers to be as ‘in touch’ as they wish to be while enjoying the great Cathay Pacific and Dragonair service.”

Other airlines are gradually kitting out their fleets with Wifi, including Delta, which says it’s installed it on more than 500 planes, and Virgin, which has installed it on its full fleet.

It may not be the great attraction the airlines think, though – apparently only 10 percent of airline passengers actually use Wifi when it’s available.