Many of us have come to expect a strong Internet connection no matter where we are, even if we’re several miles off the ground.
Internet airline connectivity has become a trending topic in recent years. Whether you’re traveling for work or for fun, a strong Wi-Fi connection can be a major factor in how productive and pleasant the experience can be. While we have come a long way since the late 2000s, when wireless Internet was first offered on flights, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Internet Connection on Airplanes – How It Works
There are currently two methods of getting Wi-Fi on airplanes: satellite and air-to-ground connectivity (ATG).
Satellite Internet allows data to be transmitted from the satellite to the airplane allowing for high-speed Internet connectivity. Air-to-ground connectivity works by sending and receiving data from the airplane to the ground, and then transmitted back to the plane. ATG depends on ground-based transmitters, which means if your airplane goes over water, your Internet connection could be lost.
Gogo, an inflight Internet company, introduced ATG-4 in recent years, which is the second generation of air-to-ground technology. ATG-4 brings more bandwidth to airplanes by utilizing 4 omni-directional antennas (the original ATG technology only had 2) and a dual-modem setup. This allows the antennas to connect with more transmitters at the same time.
Internet Airline Connectivity – What’s on the Horizon
Though a number of airlines offer Wi-Fi, it typically comes at a high cost that could discourage many passengers from connecting to the Internet on flights. Fortunately, several U.S. airlines are starting to change their ways. Airlines such as American Airlines and JetBlue have started offering complimentary Wi-Fi, which is a big win for frequent travelers. Other airlines, like United, are working to remove heavy seatback screens altogether, and instead rely on users to stream content from their own personal devices with their complimentary Wi-Fi service.
An added benefit is that many new aircraft interiors come equipped with custom shelves to hold devices in place, so passengers don’t have to hold their smartphones or tablets to stream; they can sit back, relax and (literally) enjoy the ride.
Right now, these Wi-Fi improvements are specific to the U.S., so you may not have as much Internet success if you’re flying overseas. However International carriers are making improvements to Internet Airline connectivity as well. British Airways recently announced they will have 90% of their aircrafts connected in 2019.
Staying connected, no matter where you are, is more important now than ever. Fortunately, airlines have started to recognize this and are making efforts to improve Internet connection and lower Wi-Fi costs for their passengers.