Why In-Flight Wi-Fi Sucks And How It Might Get Better

The internet on aeroplanes sucks, and it's really only available on US flights. Yes, it's amazing. But it also very rarely works well and it's getting more expensive. Huh? Buzzfeed took a look into why that is and if there's any chance of things getting better.

Here's the problem: GoGo pretty much has a monopoly on in-flight internet, since it bought up all the Air to Ground spectrum in 2006. It's got exclusive rights to those. And its infrastructure makes it easy for airlines to install GoGo on planes. Couple that with an increase in use — up to 5.4 per cent over the first six months of this year, from 4.3 over the same period last year — and a limit of about 3Mbit/s of bandwidth on each flight, and it's easy to see why GoGo is getting away with charging up to $US10/hour.

So what's the solution? JetBlue is working on a free in-flight Wi-Fi solution, and Southwest already has a $US5/flight option. They're using satellite systems which are tougher to install but offer greater bandwidth. The problem is, there's less infrastructure in place for satellite internet, so it's a slower process to build it out. That's especially true for JetBlue, which is using the newer and inexpensive Ka band.

There are more specifics, which you can and should check out in the full BuzzFeed piece, but here's the takeaway: in-flight internet isn't some inalienable right, but it's something people have come to depend on, and they choose their airlines accordingly. It's going to get better, but for now, it seems pretty obvious that GoGo will not be the answer. It looks like an international service is a bit further away than we hoped too. [BuzzFeed]

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