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Takeoff for China's Homegrown, On-Board Airliner Wi-Fi

BEIJING ( TheStreet) -- An all-China technology team rolled out Wednesday the country's first high-speed Internet access system for intercity air travelers in China.

State media said telecom giant China Mobile (CHL) and telecom equipment supplier ZTE (ZTCOF) helped build the wireless, in-cabin system that was successfully tested on a 2 1/2-hour Air China flight from Beijing to Chengdu.

The system, which relies on ground antennas positioned along the flight route, is a home-grown response to the growing availability of high-speed Internet services on airliners in other parts of the world.

It comes nine months after Air China became the first domestic carrier to offer passengers satellite-linked Internet on long-distance flights at high altitudes, and two years after introducing the country's first LAN-based Internet aboard international flights.

"We're in the air on Flight CA4116, and we have Wi-Fi," a passenger wrote and posted on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter. "It's a bright moment with friends surfing the Internet on laptops and iPads in the cabin. There's a look of joy on everyone's face."

Fan Cheng, the airline's Communist Party secretary, presided over a test videoconference between the jet and airport control centers in Beijing and Chengdu. "Through the entire video process the image was clear, the sound clear, the transmission smooth," reported the state-run Xinhua news service.

Fan said the system was a Chinese technological achievement with "comprehensive localization" and "independent intellectual property rights." He said unlike similar networks used by non-Chinese airlines, Air China built the system on fourth-generation Wi-Fi technology recently made available to Chinese smartphone users.

Air China plans to invest in the system and expand Internet coverage throughout its fleet, Fan said, without providing specifics.

Hong Kong-listed Air China is the country's third-largest airline, behind China Southern Airlines (ZNH) and China Eastern Airlines (CEA), as well as  the country's biggest international carrier.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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