The convenience of sky-high connectivity has not been lost on the broadband overlords at the FCC, who have moved to open up new frequencies for in-air data use. Current offerings use around 3 MHz of bandwidth, but the FCC envisions opening up 500 MHz of bandwidth to provide passengers much faster speeds and better connection consistency.
This has been, obviously, a long time coming. The current speed, quality and price of Wi-Fi connections on planes are reminiscent of the dial-up days. To boot, most in-flight Wi-Fi is only available over the continental US, with only a few services running very expensive satellite-based signals that provide Wi-Fi over the oceans. Only a few people have really cottoned on to the service. Virgin says only 12 percent to 15 percent of its passengers use Wi-Fi, which is probably higher than the industry average. More than the spotty, lag-heavy service, it’s the cost of it ($14 per flight with Gogo, a service provider) that puts off most consumers, who have had ubiquitous free Wi-Fi for so long that paying for it seems like a rip-off at any price point.
Well, what consumer wants, consumer gets. We’re not turning our devices off like we’re supposed to anyway. 500 MHz of bandwidth will allow higher-quality service, and more importantly room for competition. And the free market will do the rest, maybe. At the very least we will be able to Instagram our in-flight meals with no lag before long, even if it’s costing us $14 to do it.
[Photo credit: Flickr user Daquella manera]