In-flight Wi-Fi - Ready for Takeoff?

Update on the promise of in-flight connectivity. Will on-board Wi-Fi access really become the norm?

< Back on Travel Style Blog
Since time spent travelling can be really valuable for completing a file, preparing a conference, or doing research, in-flight Wi-Fi has become a sine qua non of business travel. Will it finally become widely available in Europe, where airlines are lagging behind compared to the United States? 

High charges, slow speeds; although more and more airlines are equipping their aircraft to offer their passengers Wi-Fi connection, services have not always been totally adequate, especially for European business travellers. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, routing data to an aircraft in flight is no easy matter, given the average speed at which an aircraft travels (800/900 km/h). Secondly, when a plane is flying over a large body of water, an ocean for example, data flows through a network of telecommunications satellites; a technological solution that's a lot more expensive than ground-based towers. 

A market that's really taking off

According to the London School of Economics (LSE), the in-flight Wi-Fi sector is set to develop dramatically. According to a study it has conducted, the market could amount to 130 billion US dollars at a global level, 30 billion of which would be pocketed by airlines.

Different levels of service between North America and Europe

While in Europe there's the advantage of it being easier to get around for business travel, in terms of high-altitude connectivity, Europe is still behind North America. As early as 2008, the in-flight broadband company Gogo installed a network of 250 antennas, making it the leading player in this field. To compete with competitors such as ViaSat, Panasonic and Global Eagle, the sector pioneer is now about to switch to satellite connection.

Europe, however, is intent on catching up in to offer travellers the same connectivity possibilities during their trip. The European Aviation Network (EAN), a satellite specialist set up by Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat, uses both satellites and ground-based towers, mostly the latter, located throughout Europe (350 in 28 countries of the European Union, Switzerland and Norway, 50 of which just for France) to provide a competitive connection speed. The first customer to benefit from this less costly technology is the British aviation group IAG (British Airways and Iberia). 

Air France's Connect Service

Air France, which promises that all its planes will be Wi-Fi enabled by 2020, has just introduced a service that’s adapted to suit a range of needs with three different Wi-Fi pass options for smartphones, tablets and laptops:

- a free Message pass that allows passengers to send messages via messaging applications (WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, iMessage and WeChat) on their smartphone;
- a Surf pass that provides internet access for sending and receiving emails (from €3 to €8 for one hour, or €18 for the duration of a flight); and
- a Stream pass for high-speed connection, for €30 or 10,000 miles.  

Asia is also looking to conquer Wi-Fi

ChinaUnicom, for example, recently partnered with the French satellite operator Eutelsat to offer in-flight internet in Asia. Like its American competitor ViaSat, Eutelsat is banking on the arrival of its next-generation satellite, or VHTS (Very High Throughput Satellite) in 2021, to offer speeds that are comparable with current ground-based networks.

Data security - caution danger

According to a survey published by the transport firm GO Group, less than half (48%) of people who use airport and aircraft Wi-Fi networks say they are 'a little concerned' about data protection. And yet it's not difficult for data thieves to skim personal information when Wi-Fi networks are used in public areas. A word of advice: check the full name of the Wi-Fi network you connect to; disable file sharing, only visit 'https' encrypted sites, and avoid online shopping. 

Published by Thi bao on 18/06/2019 Photo credit: © gorodenkoff

This may also interest you.

Airlines - A look at the 2018 rankings

A key element of business travel is the actual journey, and companies are in stiff competition with one another to come up with the best solution. Here, we report on what worked best.

Your data on the move: security first!

In our increasingly connected world, it is important to make sure that your data is protected on business trips. Read on for our tips!

Connected airports: saving you valuable time

Thanks to the rise of intelligent airports, business travel is becoming more efficient than ever

< Back on Travel Style Blog