Thousands of people use aviation as a way of traveling each year. There are flights that take around 30 minutes, and then there are long haul flights which take more than 10 to 15 hours in some cases. To make the time spent in aircraft more efficient and enjoyable, airlines all over the world provide different degrees of in-flight wireless internet service. In this article, we are going to explore how the in-flight Wi-Fi service was introduced and later evolved.

How Does Airplanes WiFi Works?

in-flight Wi-Fi is having access to wireless internet service while the plane is on flight. The availability of such internet can start from 10000 feet above from ground to 30,000 feet in general cases. From the beginning in the 2000s, multiple updates in the technology related to in-flight Wi-Fi have been noticed. It started with basic Air To Ground technology. This technology basically works like cellphone technology. The antenna attached beneath the aircraft picks up signals from the cell towers in the ground.

Ku-Band technology

The internet connection process became stronger with the introduction of Ku-Band technology. Since this technology uses satellites, it can provide better network signals. It has evolved to Ka-Band technology. Ka-Band technology is also a satellite-based service, but much faster than the previous one. The latest super fast and secure addition to the in-flight Wi-Fi technology is 2Ku. This is set to use spot beam satellite facilities, which will allow download speed of 100mbps with a super-secure connection. This might be a go-to for business persons and important political personalities.

When did it all start?

You might be confused about seeing the fact that many in-flight Wi-Fi provider companies were established before 2000. Initially, Wi-Fi was used as a way of providing in-flight entertainment content. But internet access wasn’t introduced until April 2000.  It was officially launched as Connexion by Boeing. Ku-Band technology was used in this case.

Challenges of Airplanes WiFi

However, they faced many adversities back then. The 9/11 incident raised questions about the necessity and risks of in-flight Wi-Fi. The devices in those days were just getting Wi-Fi compatible updates. Most mobile phones were not Wi-Fi compatible. The ones who used laptop computers could use Wi-Fi, but the need to save battery in the time of traveling limited their use of Wi-Fi too. The aircraft were hard to be equipped with the facilities. Boeing was facing numerous troubles in terms of time and expense. So they eventually had to let go of this attempt in 2006. 

Progress of the Airplanes WiFi

But the digital scenario started to change soon after. People were starting to get innovative devices and the connectivity, in general, was fueling the need for the internet even when people were traveling. Panasonic Avionics and companies like that emerged with strong business policies and strategies. Air To Ground service was approved by FCC back in 1990. FCC auctioned different frequency and bandwidth plans in 2006. Aircell won the 3MHz bandwidth and JetBlue was allocated 1MHz. Aircell was an experienced company already and they had their own tools to work with.

Launch of GOGO and Other Companies

Aircell had permission to work within the United States of America. Soon the passengers were noticing the service provided by them and their name got around. In about 2 years, around November 2008, one of the most known in-flight Wi-Fi services of the present time, Gogo was introduced to the world.  

Gogo is now associated with a good number of airlines around the world.  before being of service to airlines like Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, British Airways, American Airlines, etc., Gogo started its journey with Virgin America. Soon after, AirTran and Alaska Airlines followed by equipping the major aircraft with Wi-Fi facilities and service from this company.  Delta Air Lines decorated more than 500 airplanes during 2012. Next came American Airlines. United Airways decided to add the in-flight Wi-Fi service to international aircraft in the same year. Most of the airlines that are now associated with Gogo decided to get the service around that particular time.

In 2011, the pricing of Aircell was pretty logical. The passengers could get the service for as cheap as $5 and they could spend up to $40 for a monthly subscription.

Now, which was the company that offered free in-flight Wi-Fi first? The answer is Norwegian. The airline has disclosed that almost 20 million passengers use the complimentary Wi-Fi service since 2011. In terms of data used, that is more than 500 terabytes!

As time has passed, we have witnessed the services of ViaSat, AeroMobile Communications Limited, SITAOnAir, Thales Group, etc.  These companies have been competing in order to bring the latest technology and the lowest price for the passengers.

Tendency of Airlines

Most Airlines show the tendency of making wireless internet service available in the long haul international flights first. It is understandable since most International travelers have either business or leisure plans. Internet connection in these long time flights help them stay connected and up-to-date. However, many airlines in the United States of America provide free Wi-Fi in domestic flights first. Some Chinese airlines have exciting plans like free Wi-Fi for the first group of people which is available on a first come first get basis. This type of system allows the airline to experiment with their Technology and satisfy their customers with exciting offers at the same time.

Final Words

In-flight Wi-Fi has turned into an integral part of amenities offered by airlines. To keep up with the demand of the public and the business side at the same time, Wi-Fi providers and Airlines are now working together. Understanding of the demands, introducing the latest technology first and keeping the time and expense of both the passenger and the airline is the key for achieving the proper utilization of this technology.  As of now you can travel knowing that you can stay connected and hoping that you can watch your favorite show before you land on your next destination instead of listening to the horrible snoring of another passenger the entire flight.

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