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In-Flight WiFi for Long Haul British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia Planes

Saturday, May 7th, 2016 (8:09 am) - Score 1,078

Some 118 British Airways, 4 Aer Lingus (Boeing 757) and up to 15 Iberia long-haul aircraft are to roll-out fast in-flight WiFi connectivity as part a new deal between parent organisation the International Airlines Group (IAG) and GoGo, which specialises in providing related Internet services.

Apparently the new service will be delivered using GoGo’s 2Ku technology, which uses a mix of ground and space (satellite) stations to deliver on-board Internet access with speeds of up to 70-100Mbps over a local WiFi wireless network. Back in 2014 Richard Branson’s airline, Virgin Atlantic, became one of the first European carriers to announce a similar deal (here).

The 2Ku setup makes use of the latest Ku-band satellite antennas, which are smaller, more efficient and operate in the 12-18GHz portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (microwave). In Europe the Ku band is used from 10.7 to 12.75GHz.

Apparently the first 2Ku enabled British Airways aircraft is expected to be in service during early 2017 and then the bulk of the installations (90% of all IAGs aircraft) are expected to be completed by 2019.

Michael Small, Gogo’s president and CEO, said:

“We are delighted to bring Gogo’s industry leading 2Ku technology to three of the most iconic brands in commercial aviation. 2Ku is delivering a ground-like performance to aircraft flying around the world today. But one of the many benefits of 2Ku is that it’s built on an open architecture and can leverage numerous Ku satellites around the world today and new advancements in the Ku-band coming online in the future. This means the technology will get even better over time and will provide passengers with a superior connectivity experience now and in the future.”

All of this is wonderful news, particularly given that the focus is on long-haul flights where the on-board entertainment isn’t always enough to keep you occupied. Mind you it also means that more people will be unable to escape work, even when high up in the air, and that in turn could cause annoyance to other passengers.

The other issue is one of network capacity. The top speed of 70Mbps (100Mbps will be possible in the future) sounds like a good maximum, but that performance could easily become akin to the slowest of rural broadband connection when shared between many passengers. On the other hand people will struggle to use their favourite video streaming services due to the complications of adopting a Satellite link (geo IP-blocking may hinder your access), but a VPN might help.. unless they’re blocked too.

As for how much you’ll pay to use the service, GoGo charges around £20 for a 24 hour one-day pass on international flights and if you’re a regular traveller then the monthly passes cost around £55 (note: the cheaper prices on GoGo’s front page are for USA / domestic flights). It’s not cheap, but then providing and maintaining the service isn’t exactly a walk in the park either.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Max says:

    I’d definitely take 70Mb over nothing. But to get what you’d consider genuine high speed access, planes are probably going to need gigabit downlink speed. If you assume ~100 people or so on a plane are using their smartphones or iPads at any one time, it’d give each person a relatively health 10Mbit.

    That’s quite a long way off. We’d need to upgrade many satellites to cope with that.

  2. karl says:

    “100 people or so on a plane are using their smartphones or iPads at any one time”

    On a 747 with standard 3 class layout that would equate to almost a quarter or 25% all online at the same time using all the speed they can out of the connection. At £20 a go i doubt you will have that many and even if you did many will not need Mbs and Mbs in speed as most of them will only be using facepalm or the twatters which only need a connection of a few kbs. Serious bandwidth hogs like Netflix are often blocked.

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