How Does Airplane WiFi Work?

Airplane WiFi Internet

How Does Airplane WiFi Work?

Airplane WiFi works like WiFi at free WiFi at coffee shops and book stores. The main components of an airplane WiFi system are below.

  1. Computer/WiFi enabled device (laptop, iPhone)
  2. Airplane WiFi network (access points)
  3. Air-to-ground wireless data connection (satellite or EVDO)
  4. Ground Internet service provider

The technology to make the entire system work is transparent travelers. All that is required is an 802.11 WiFi enabled device and a method to pay for the service. WiFi on airplanes is available on most major airlines.

Airplane WiFi Configurations

There are two companies, GoGo Internet and Row 44, that most airlines are using to provide airplane WiFi service. GoGo Internet uses a ground based cellular data network for data communications and Row 44 uses satellite communications.

Row 44 Airplane WiFi

Satellite antenna atop of plane to communicate with satellites and other electronics inside cabin.

Row 44 Airplane WiFi Equipment

Southwest Airplane Row 44 Satellite Antenna

Row 44 Airplane WiFi Service

GoGo Inflight Airplane WiFi Configuration

GoGo’s airplane wifi configuration is similar to Row 44 except that they rely on a ground based EVDO network (like cell phone data networks) for communications to airplanes.

GoGo Aircell Airplane WiFi EVDO Network

Aircell Airplane WiFi Equipment

GoGo Internet Airplane WiFi Service

Installing Airplane WiFi on an American Airlines Plane

2 Replies to “How Does Airplane WiFi Work?”

  1. Any idea how many access points AirCell and Row 44 use to provide coverage and bandwidth in an airplane and who makes the access points?

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