Boeing Promises Better In-Flight Wi-Fi

Inflight Wi-Fi is about to improve thanks to BoeingThere is no doubt that one of the best innovations in air travel in recent years has been the addition of in-flight Wi-Fi. Not only does it help us to stay more productive, but it is a great way of staying in touch with friends and family, not to mention keeping entertained on a longer flight. Of course, if you’ve ever used wireless Internet while on a plane, you probably know that the quality of the connection varies widely, ranging from incredibly slow to impressively fast – especially considering you’re in a flying tube 30,000 feet above the ground. Now, Boeing is promising to make the experience a much more consistent one thanks to a new method of testing and optimizing the Wi-Fi signal strength in a plane.

Boeing’s new testing process arose from a set of existing proprietary tools that they already used to ensure radio signals from Wi-Fi didn’t interfere with the aircraft’s instrumentation. While using those tools they discovered that they could be fine tuned to help optimize the signal of the wireless router for greater efficiency. They also managed to cut the time for testing down from two weeks to just ten hours, significantly improving an engineers’ ability to improve wireless performance in a short amount of time.

What all of this means for you and I as travelers is that we’ll soon have a much more consistent and useful Wi-Fi connection on longer flights. In their press release touting this improvement, Boeing stated that even people getting up and moving about the cabin could have a detrimental effect on signal strength, but with this new method of testing, they were quickly and more efficiently able to tune the router for better performance, greatly limiting these issues. That’s something that we can all appreciate.

Now, if the airlines would just hurry up and get Wi-Fi working properly on more international flights, I’ll be one happy traveler.

[Photo Credit: EPA via WikiMedia]

In-Flight Connectivity To Improve, Be Just Like At Home

in-flight connectivityToday, in-flight connectivity has its share of challenges. Technology companies are keenly aware that in the not too distant future, demand for in-flight connectivity will grow considerably. Travelers have become more reliant on a good connection than a good in-person relationship to conduct business and support social ties. A partnership announced this week promises passengers will have fast, reliable in-flight connectivity for their devices anywhere, even while crossing oceans.

As reported by MarketWatch, Honeywell recently acquired EMS Technologies, Inc., a company with broad technology offerings and will combine them with Honeywell’s global aerospace franchise to launch the Inmarsat Global Xpress aerospace network.

“With this new service, the flow of information will no longer stop when the door to the aircraft closes,” said Tim Mahoney, President and CEO, Honeywell Aerospace.

By the year 2016, there will be 10 billion mobile devices in the world serving a global population of over 7 billion people, many of which will take to the sky when traveling. Those travelers will be using tablets and smartphones for working on the go and watching video.

“We believe this new network will significantly expand the connectivity options of consumer, business, and government customers around the world,” added Mahoney.Promising land-like communication capabilities and connectivity in the air, travelers will be able to do real-time social media, video conferencing and multi-media presentation development while in flight virtually anywhere in the world.

Australian Airline to Offer iPad for In-Flight Entertainment



[Flickr photo via Ehsan Khakbaz]

Ryanair weeks away from offering in-flight mobile phone service

An article posted by The Register this morning reports that Irish low cost carrier Ryanair is just a few weeks away from launching in-flight mobile phone service.

The service will be provided by OnAir, a joint venture between SITA and Airbus, which was setup to bring Internet, phone and text messaging service to the skies.

Mobile phone calls will cost £2 per minute, which at the current exchange rate translates to just under $4. At launch, the service will only be available to passengers with a mobile phone on the UK’s O2 and Three networks. The technology allows 6 simultaneous calls from each plane and the required equipment will first be introduced on 14 Dublin based Ryanair planes.

In a time where airlines are scrambling to find ways to generate more revenue, I doubt Ryanair will be the last airline to try and tap into the lucrative mobile phone market. It is however ironic that the low cost carriers are among the first to introduce these new services.

Mobile phone service on flights won’t be coming to the States any time soon, as the FCC has not lifted the ban on in-flight phone service. The upside to this, is that you won’t have to deal with a seatmate blabbering on his phone for the entire flight.

Block on in-flight Internet phone calls bypassed – for now

When airlines (slowly) started introducing in-flight Internet access to their flights, they were very quick to point out that “VOIP calls” would not be possible. VOIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol”, and basically means making phone calls over the Internet. All popular VOIP applications like Skype and Vonage have been blocked.

The airlines, and the provider behind the service obviously do not want a plane full of people chatting on the phone, yelling loudly about how they just made a fortune on the stock market. The other reason is of course because each flight only has a limited amount of data to share between all the passengers. If half the plane suddenly starts calling their aunts and uncles, regular web browsing would become impossible when all the bandwidth is sucked up by phone chatter.

Of course, when you tell people they can’t do something, their natural response is to see how they can prove you wrong. It took a week, but the block on VOIP calls has been successfully bypassed. By using a web service called Phweet, passengers have been able to make phone calls to their friends. The system only works with people who have a Twitter account, but it’s better than nothing. Of course, now this workaround has been published, it will only be a matter of time before the fun comes to an end, and the creative minds will have to find another working solution.

(Source: Wired)

Flight attendants to become the porn police

Back in December, when Aaron posted about the etiquette questions raised by In-flight Internet, he wrote the prevailing thought was that “decency, good sense and normal behavior” would prevail.

According to this article at FoxNews.com, just in case decency, good sense and normal behavior go out the window, flight attendants will become the porn police.

I imagine that while the flight attendant is taking your money for your snack and beverage that used to be complimentary, but isn’t anymore, he or she can give a peek at your screen to see what you’re surfing and shut you down if you forget you’re not in the comfort of your own home or tucked back in your office cubicle.

If your neighbor is getting grossed out or upset by your viewing, the flight attendant will appear to put an end to the shenanigans.

Some airlines, the article reports, will put a block on sites which should give the attendants a break so they can do other important tasks like make sure they give back correct change when you purchase water so you won’t die of thirst before the flight ends.

Airlines that either do or will filter sites when Internet is made available: JetBlue Airways, Continental and Qantas.

Airlines that will or already do let you surf without a filter, and hope that you use common sense when you do so: Northwest, American, Delta, Alaskan Airlines and Virgin.

Here are concerns being raised: What is pornography or not appropriate content and under what circumstances? Different people have different lenses with which they view what is appropriate. Here are two examples given:

  • A child sitting next to a person watching an R-rated movie that is either sexually explicit or violent
  • A person surfing a Victoria Secret lingerie catalog could be disconcerting as well.

As the article also points out, the reason why these issues are felt so strongly when people fly is that they are confined and can not escape from what is distasteful. You can’t move seats and you can’t get off.

Although flight attendants are trained to deal with conflict, as you may have noticed if you read Gadling comments whenever a flight issue is posed, there are a lot of stresses from flying as it is. It seems to me that Internet may be great to have, but could be adding more trouble than it’s worth.