Inflight internet isn’t nearly as challenging as it used to be, at least if you’re flying an airline that offers it, and that isn’t United. Even United is investing in upgrading inflight wifi finally.
When internet connectivity was first introduced on planes, one of the most common tweets in my feed was “I’m tweeting from a plane!” Everyone’s first inflight connection involved a public declaration of the previously-unimaginable.
Yet internet speeds rapidly became an issue, especially as more people starting using the limited bandwidth. Gogo’s air to ground network wasn’t really built for internet speeds, but to support Airfones nobody used. And it couldn’t be used below 10,000 feet.
Now with satellite-based internet from companies that do a better job than Panasonic, you can stream much more effectively than ever before. I’m on board an American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX equipped with ViaSat internet, and my only frustration is latency.
Internet speeds could improve soon beyond anything currently offered, at least if Elon Musk delivers on his word and if airlines are open to the investment.
Yes, we are talking to airlines about installing Starlink. Please let them know if you want it on your airliner.
Low latency ~half gigabit connectivity in the air!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2021
Musk is an incredible entrepreneur. Many of his boasts are rather nuts, at least they seem nuts at first. Many of his ideas don’t come to fruition, so you have to take them with a grain of salt. At the same time, some of the things that start out seemingly impossible become reality. That’s what’s so exciting, his claims may border on Trump or Richard Branson-level marketing, but they also sometimes come true.
And – eventually – from StarLink or some other platform we’ll see performance like Musk is promising. It’s just a matter of when this delivers.
When Scott Kirby was President of US Airways he put off investment in wifi for years, believing they’d never earn more than it cost in wifi fees. He learned, however, that without good wifi customers avoided flying the airline. Quality internet connections are no longer the novelty or luxury where we announce them in tweets. They’re part of how we stay connected to the world.