Good News: The Days of Horrible In-Flight Wi-Fi Are Almost Over
We’ve all been there: staring at the spinning wheel of death, exasperated over snail-paced Wi-Fi while trying to catch up on email from the middle seat. But those days are almost behind us.
Today, Gogo announced a partnership with global satellite operator SES SA to juice up their connection speeds after a lawsuit from American Airlines indicated they may soon be kicked off of the U.S.’s largest fleet. The deal—which caused American to drop its case—will boost connectivity on routes in the Americas, the Caribbean, and the North Atlantic beginning in 2017, when the next-gen satellites enter into orbit. These wide beam capacity satellites will also cover other regions, including Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, later in 2017.
The move complements the launch of yet another technology by GoGo called 2ku, which doubles connection speeds and can handle streaming content—it even makes for better picture quality—with the help of special antennas. These systems are particularly attractive as many carriers are nixing seat-back entertainment screens and having passengers stream from a content portal on their own device (think: Delta Studio). So far, the 2ku systems have been approved in 200 countries—that’s the first hurdle—and installed on Aeromexico’s B737 aircraft. Other airlines due to receive the technology soon include Delta, United, Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Japan Airlines, and now—presumably—American Airlines as well.
But wait, there’s more! Competition in the in-flight Wi-Fi market is heating up, with multiple new high bandwidth options for carriers to choose from. JetBlue has invested in ViaSat for its FlyFi system, which is now installed on all of that fleet’s A320s and A321s. And in January, connected technology provider Honeywell received approval for a new high-speed broadband satellite system to be installed in Boeing 757s. The more players that enter this space, the more competition will drive innovation, better products, and better overall service.