Airplane WiFi Wireless Internet Update

Airplane WiFi Wireless Internet Update

Since my previous post about airplane wifi, a few more airlines have launched wifi Internet using either Aircell’s GoGo or Row 44’s service.

A quick review of the two technologies is below.

Aircell’s GoGo Airplane Internet Service

Aircell has been authorized by the FAA and FCC to use cellular frequencies for inflight broadband communications. Based on a tech primer by Aircell from March 2007 the network is summarized below.

  • 100 or fewer EVDO antennas across the US providing coast-to-coast coverage.
  • AirCell broadband uses an EV-DO (Rev. A) air-to-ground link, which provides peak data rates up to 3.1Mbps from the ground to the airplane, and up to 1.8Mbps from the airplane to the ground.
  • Usable Internet access but not high speed Internet as expected by users with 30Mbps Internet access at home.

Language from tech primer below acknowledging speed limitations of network architecture and GoGo service.

AirCell broadband will be fast enough to give you complete, unfettered access to the Internet without excessive load times. It will run regular e-mail programs with normal attachments just like you do on the ground. It’s not as fast as a T1 line feeding a large corporation, but in daily operations very few people would notice a difference in download times between the two – and then, only when working with very large files. Participants that have demonstrated prototypes of the system in flight have been extremely happy with their experience.

Row 44’s Airplane Internet Service

Unlike Aircell, who built a wireless network for inflight WiFi Internet, Row 44 purchases bandwidth from HughesNet. Bandwidth can be very high, much higher than the EVDO based network used by Aircell but HughesNet uses geosynchronous satellites (about 42,164 km from Earth) has always suffered from latency issues when used for two-way communications. Additional details from Row 44’s website about the broadband system are below.

  • Data rates averaging 30 Mbps in the downlink direction (from the satellite to the aircraft) and 620 Kbps maximum in the uplink direction.
  • System will allow full access to the Internet as well as VoIP services, cell phone roaming usage where allowed by government regulation as well as live TV using IPTV.
  • The system weighs less than 150 lbs and can be installed in two overnights, with the plane re-entering revenue service between the overnights.
  • Second multi-cast 45 Mbps receive-only channel can be provisioned using the same equipment for dedicated transport of IP television. The passenger will gain access to all these services via the airline’s in-flight entertainment system or their own devices through Wi-Fi access points onboard the aircraft.

In-Flight WiFi Guide

Below is a summary compiled by travel site Jaunted with prices and WiFi Internet services offered by major airlines.

One Reply to “Airplane WiFi Wireless Internet Update”

  1. I thought I might help with an update. Your reference from Jaunted states that Alaska Airlines probably won’t have in flight WiFi. I am currently flying from Seattle to Dallas and I am using the GoGo WiFi. Although the flight from Anchorage to Seattle lacked any connectivity to speak of. The flight attendants state that until Canadian airspace was reached there probably wouldn’t be any WiFi.

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