FCC proposal may greatly improve airplane Wi-Fi

By on May 10, 2013, 4:30 PM

The FCC has proposed freeing up as much as 500MHz of spectrum for the purpose of impoving airplane Internet connectivity during flight. The bump in bandwidth could be a boon for airborne Internet junkies but may come at the expense of commercial satellite communications.

Outgoing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski believes the move will lead to greater competition amongst services offering in-flight broadband, thus increasing quality, performance and selection of air-to-ground Internet services.

Of course, that spectrum has to come from somewhere and it appears orbital communications may be the loser in the FCC's give-and-take plan for better airplane broadband. The FCC intends to offer the 14,000-14,500 GHz "Ku" band to bolster ATG Internet; unfortunately though, that same block of spectrum is also used by commercial satellite communications.

Satellite communications generates over one-billion in revenue annually for North America alone. Unsurprisingly, the Satellite Industry Association does not support the proposal. The consortium believes the plan will lead to degradation of satellite network performance.

"SIA has filed with the Commission detailed technical analyses that demonstrate that the proposed air-ground service would cause interference into the satellite services that are primary in that band and are relied upon by media, enterprise, public safety and U.S. military customers for essential services." 

Source: satnews.com

However, the FCC contends it will only license currently unused portions of the 14K-14.5K spectrum with plans to auction off the block to a couple of different companies. Incidentally, the FCC believes this will leave today's satellites unaffected, although this may limit future satellite network growth.

In 2006, Aircell -- owner of in-flight Wi-Fi operator Gogo -- dropped nearly $32 million on a comparatively tiny 3MHz slice of wireless spectrum. When compared to Gogo's 3MHz, 500MHz is an enormous slice of sky pie. Although Gogo has traditionally offered air-to-ground broadband at speeds neighboring 3Mbps, the company recently began rolling out its new 10Mbps ATG-4 service. Gogo claims "hundreds" of planes are scheduled to benefit from the service by the end of 2013.




User Comments: 8

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hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

I read this [link] yesterday, and I read this story on TechSpot today. What am I missing here?

Guest said:

Hundreds of planes is not just a claim by Gogo. I can tell you that the largest Airbus fleet in North America has already been retrofit with the ATG 4 system. All they have to do is flip the switch.

All it took was replacing the ATG 3 antennas, add 2 side antennas, install a content loader, add the ATG4000 box, and upgrade the C-waps with N-waps.

1 person liked this |
Staff
Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

I read this [link] yesterday, and I read this story on TechSpot today. What am I missing here?

The use of portable electronics is prohibited during ascent and descent only. Although "electronics" are generally OK, consumer devices with radios (I.e. Wi-Fi, cellular etc..) are technically banned at all times. Of course, these days, that's pretty much everything.

In-flight Wi-Fi / Internet is allowed by many airlines on many flights -- in fact, you pay the airline for the service. But their equipment is "certified":

"Over the last couple of years, airlines have responded to travelers? requests for inflight Internet access by installing WiFi systems that passengers can access (for a fee) using their laptop computers, Blackberries and other devices with a WiFi chip.

For each model of aircraft a WiFi system is to be used on, a manufacturer must get FAA certification for the system, and the airline must get FAA operational approval. The approvals include testing to show the equipment performs its intended function and doesn?t interfere with any aircraft systems during all phases of flight."

[link]

Guest said:

Something needs done, I purchased a 25 dollar NOgo during a recent flight, after 3 minutes of dealing with slow loading pages, pages that wouldn't load at all I stuffed my IPAD back into my bag. Won't do it again.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

Something needs done, I purchased a 25 dollar NOgo during a recent flight, after 3 minutes of dealing with slow loading pages, pages that wouldn't load at all I stuffed my IPAD back into my bag. Won't do it again.

If I had an iPad I'd also stuff it in it's bag and only take it out again to get rid of it.

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

But what are you going to use to play angry birds >_>

Guest said:

My Nokia Lumia 920 duh

highlander84 said:

Personally I've never understood the reason to switch off all wireless devices on a aircraft...I never have and have also never crashed...I've flown a lot...If there was a problem with the devices planes would have already been brought down by this "problem" and they would be physically checking or making you check your devices in before boarding...That leads me to think its NOT a problem and this is just a lingering thought from earlier days of aviation... So why not let people use their normal cellular connections so long as they still function...

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