May 14 2013

Faster In-Flight Wi-Fi: Coming to a Plane Near You?

The FCC is working on regulation to free up more Internet bandwidth for air travelers.

The race for ubiquitous Internet connectivity and mobility has made significant progress in recent years. According to a report from Akamai, Internet speeds in the United States increased 29 percent year over year in 2012.

But Internet connectivity gets dicey when users take to the sky.

Access to wireless Internet while flying has proved to be a concept more useful in theory than practice.

Similar to the demand for Wi-Fi in stadiums, air travelers have been begging for reliable and speedy in-flight Wi-Fi for years. But a number of challenges and restrictions have prevented the airline industry from offering Wi-Fi at speeds that consumers are used to enjoying at home.

There is hope though. The FCC announced last week that it would propose auctioning off the rights to newly available wireless spectrums to boost the performance of in-flight Wi-Fi, reports The New York Times.

“The reality is that we expect and often need to be able to get online 24/7, at home, in an office or on a plane,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in the article. “This will enable business and leisure travelers aboard aircraft in the United States to be more productive and have more choices in entertainment, communications and social media, and it could lower prices.”

Current standards for in-flight Wi-Fi are somewhere around 3 megabits per second for the whole plane, reports the Times. That is equal to “barely half the speed of the average household DSL connection and one-third the average wired broadband speed.” With the addition of the proposed spectrums, planes could see data transmission speeds of 300 gigabits per second.

If the FCC’s proposal succeeds, hopefully we’ll see a lot more tweets like this in the future:

And fewer like this: