Expect Faster Wifi on Airplanes

June 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a tech-savvy traveler, you likely have a wish list of technological advances you’d like to see in airplanes. Faster and/or free wifi, mobile device charging stations, free live television viewing, and more are all potential tech upgrades that many airlines are considering for their passengers.

Recently, the FCC took a step forward in improving wifi access for travelers. An air-to-ground wireless network is being proposed by Qualcomm, according to Bloomberg.com, and the FCC recently voted in favor of moving forward with the planning phase of this wireless network.

Sleeping on Turkish Airlines flight from Shanghai

Sleeping on Turkish Airlines flight from Shanghai to Istanbul in seat 3k (Photo credit: Toby Simkin)

So what does this mean for the average traveler? Nothing, yet. However, according to the article, the global market for in-flight technology and entertainment is estimated to grow to $3 billion in 2017. That’s a billion dollars in growth throughout the next four years, which likely means that not only will wifi be more readily available for passengers, it will be faster, and might even be free.

In a statement from Qualcomm, the broadband system they’re developing is designed to offer flyers an “in-flight broadband experience equivalent to what is available in their homes, offices, parks, cars, buses, and trains,” Qualcomm said.

Today’s travelers, especially the younger generation of road warriors, expect to be connected to the Internet at all times. Some people view flying time as a welcome respite from Internet connectivity, but that group of people is shrinking. Instead, travelers may want to put away their office email system during a flight, but instead they want to catch up on their Netflix queue. The proposed Internet system from Qualcomm could make this scenario a reality.

As of last year, just over 30 percent of airplanes were equipped for in-flight wifi, so there’s significant growth that needs to take place here. Some media pundits are worrying over the level of commitment to expect from each airline regarding the installation of in-flight internet services.

However, most airline industry experts agree that in time, wifi will have to be a standard offering on passenger aircraft if the airline wants to compete in the larger marketplace. Passengers who are traveling abroad or cross-country are expected to demand services like wifi and free live television viewing in the near future.

The next several years will bring a variety of technological advances into the airline industry. It will be interesting to see how Qualcomm’s proposed internet system will be developed and funded – and how quickly travelers begin using the new technological services being offered.

Personal In-Flight Entertainment via Mobile Devices

March 14, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Which is cheaper on a long-distance flight, buying the wifi and watching your own movies, or buying the inflight movie service? What are some other alternatives? Loading a movie onto your tablet, laptop, or smartphone and watching that. What else?

A recent trend in air travel has been for airlines to more broadly allow in-flight technology use. In some cases, airlines even encourage customers to use their technology device of choice during flight. This approach to in-flight entertainment is following two airline industry trends: personalization and price competition. Given the recent trends in price transparency for air travel, airlines are beginning to compete on the ancillary add-ons they offer. Multiple in-flight movies, on-demand television shows, and live news broadcasts are just a few of the entertainment options to which travelers now have growing access.

Airlines are also now attempting to further personalize the technology options for their customers. This means offering individual televisions for each passenger with on-demand TV viewing, and also allowing customers to use their personal mobile devices such as phones and tablets to view live web content via the plane’s in-flight wifi access.

While some travelers view wifi as something that should be available on every flight, many businesses do not reimburse their employees for wifi access in-flight. Thus, adoption of in-flight wifi is currently seen as a differentiator instead of a standard offering. The question is not necessarily “if” in-flight entertainment via mobile devices and wifi will be standard on every airline, but “when.” While in-flight wifi isn’t yet the norm, it’s a growing trend that is gaining popularity and will undoubtedly be seen as an industry standard in the near future.

So, what’s the cost of all these entertainment offers to consumers? Frontier Airlnes offers DirectTV for as low as $3.99 and several airlines including Frontier and Alaska Airlines offer wifi at varying rates depending on the length of the flight, usually between $1.95 – $39.95.

On the other hand, depending on your entertainment subscriptions at home you could pre-load a movie or television show to your personal mobile device for viewing while you fly – and all it’ll cost you is your battery life.