You have probably noticed that accessing the Internet on a plane high above ground is a slow experience. The Federal Communications Commission plans to change this by pushing for a faster Internet service on commercial and private planes. The agency began deliberations this Thursday on the proposal to auction off the rights to newly available airwaves.
Under this new proposal the air to ground connectivity will be increased from 4 MHz to 500 MHz. This will make accessing the Internet faster and will now allow passengers to access bandwidth intensive content such as online videos.
Popular wireless equipment maker Qualcomm for many years has been pushing for this proposal so as to speed up the in-flight broadband service. Several satellite companies however have been rejecting this proposal since they worry that it may interfere with their networks.
In the meeting held last Thursday outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the four agency commissioners voted to start gathering public comments on how the airwaves should be used. According to Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel “The world simply does not wait for us to get off the plane. We expect information at our fingertips at all times. Air travel stands out as one of the few places where we can’t always rely on a connection.”
Qualcomm’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Dean Brenner said that “This proposal takes the technology to the next level, allowing passengers to use their smartphones, tablets and other mobile broadband devices in the air with very high speed, high capacity mobile broadband connectivity, just as they do on the ground.”
It will take a couple more years for the proposal to be approved however as early as now those in the broadband business are already excited about it. Passengers in the United States will become more productive and have access to a varied choice of entertainment all of which comes at a lower price compared to existing rates.
Internet speeds in planes today is limited to 3 megabits per second. This is less than half the average DSL connection speed or a third of a wired broadband connection speed.
There are currently two types of in-flight broadband service available, one is satellite based and the other is air to ground based. In a satellite based system the plane has an antenna on top to communicate with satellites. In the air to ground system the plane has an antenna at the bottom to communicate with ground based networks. Among these two it is the air to ground system that is less expensive to implement.