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  • Airplane WiFi is slow and usually expensive.

  • And just because you're paying more

  • doesn't necessarily mean you're getting more.

  • You may not get WiFi until you're

  • 10,000 feet in the air,

  • and when you do get it, it may be slow and spotty.

  • Even so, people are still willing to cough up their

  • cash to post pictures of clouds mid-flight,

  • or do some actual work.

  • The industry is expected to be worth

  • $130 billion by 2035.

  • But if it's such a huge industry,

  • why does in-flight WiFi still suck?

  • First, we need to talk about how these planes,

  • speeding around at hundreds of miles an hour,

  • 36,000 feet in the air, can even get WiFi.

  • There are two ways:

  • towers on the ground or satellites in space.

  • Let's look at the towers.

  • This method is called air-to-ground,

  • or ATG for short.

  • Antennas on the belly of the craft

  • pick up signals from cell towers on the ground.

  • The benefit?

  • You'll get less delay because the towers

  • are closer to your plane than a satellite.

  • The downside?

  • No towers, no signals.

  • That means when you're flying over

  • large bodies of water,

  • above mountains, or passing over

  • countries with cell towers that restrict WiFi access,

  • you probably won't get any WiFi.

  • So, what about satellites?

  • The big dome-shaped antenna on top of the plane

  • will pick up signals from the satellites.

  • These satellite-based systems will either use

  • Ku-band or Ka-band connections,

  • which is similar to 3G versus 4G.

  • There's a whole debate on whether

  • Ku or Ka band is better,

  • but they're both way faster than ATG systems.

  • But when you're sharing internet

  • with a couple hundred other people,

  • traveling 500 miles per hour,

  • 36,000 feet in the air,

  • there's bound to be a hiccup or two.

  • But towers versus satellite isn't the only thing

  • that affects whether you'll be able to stream

  • this week's episode of "The Bachelor" or not.

  • The quality and price of your in-flight WiFi

  • actually depend on four more things:

  • your airline, aircraft,

  • the in-flight WiFi provider,

  • and the region you're traveling to and from.

  • First of all, in an effort to cut costs,

  • some airlines, like Frontier, don't even offer WiFi.

  • If your airline does offer WiFi,

  • it could be free,

  • or go all the way up to $30 for an all-day pass.

  • But just because the airline offers WiFi

  • doesn't mean your plane supports it.

  • Some aircraft aren't even built with WiFi capabilities.

  • An American Airlines Boeing 738

  • might have satellite-based WiFi,

  • but an American Airlines Boeing 757 might not.

  • Then there's the provider.

  • They all offer different speeds, which is

  • crucial for watching those meltdowns in HD.

  • And lastly, you'll need to factor in your route.

  • If you're flying over a lot of mountains or an ocean,

  • there probably won't be many towers along the way.

  • And if the plane isn't equipped

  • to receive satellite internet,

  • you'll be completely out of luck.

  • For a while, Hawaiian Airlines didn't want

  • to invest in in-flight WiFi

  • because the technology along their flight paths

  • crossing the Pacific Ocean was sparse,

  • but communication companies are launching

  • new satellites,

  • and Hawaiian is rethinking the investment.

  • So, why isn't everyone

  • upgrading their equipment?

  • For some airlines, it's just not their highest priority.

  • Upgrading equipment means taking planes

  • out of service for a few days,

  • which means airlines lose money.

  • It also means budgeting for new infrastructure.

  • Plus, at least one in-flight provider

  • has 10-year contracts with some of the airlines,

  • which doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room

  • for upgrades and changes.

  • But better and faster in-flight WiFi

  • is definitely on its way.

  • American Airlines, for example, is making moves

  • to invest in better in-flight WiFi.

  • One survey showed that 67% of passengers

  • would rebook with an airline

  • if high-quality WiFi were available.

  • In other words, good WiFi means

  • customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Airlines have good reason to upgrade their offerings,

  • so it might not be a bad call for airlines

  • to speed up the process.

  • But for now, you're probably better off saving

  • your reality-TV binge for when you get home.

  • Producer: That's how a plane moves....

  • For sure.

Airplane WiFi is slow and usually expensive.

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Everything Wrong With In-Flight WiFi | Untangled

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/10/26
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