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Imagine: Reliable In-Flight WI-Fi. It May Soon Be a Reality

Imagine: Reliable In-Flight WI-Fi. It May Soon Be a Reality
Jennifer Billock

Frequent flyers know the struggle of in-air internet and its consistent spottiness—if it’s offered at all—plus the sometimes exorbitant cost of getting online once you’re in the air; but in-flight internet users may soon be able to rejoice over a smooth, consistent, and potentially inexpensive connection.

It’s no secret that in-flight internet is not the greatest. FlyerTalkers discuss it at length in the forums, and we have almost all boarded a flight with either no internet or such spotty service that it isn’t worth the cost we paid. But perk up, would-be web browsers—there’s a new era of in-air internet service on the way that could be more reliable and cheaper.

The Seamless Air Alliance

The optimism is thanks to a nonprofit coalition of 30 airlines, plane manufacturers, satellite companies, and internet equipment manufacturers, called the Seamless Air Alliance. They’re dedicated to making the future of flying an internet-friendly zone. The goal is to create a global standard, a technology architecture of non-exclusive internet networks.

Right now, airlines “have equipment that only works with the provider they’ve chosen,” Jack Mandala, the alliance’s chief executive officer, told Bloomberg.

A new structure of service would change that, so you’d be able to go from terminal to jet bridge to seat, all without logging in, losing your connection, or paying for internet. That would entice new internet companies to come into the market and increase both competition and quality, Mandala told Bloomberg. Plus, it would allow new technologies to be adopted quicker and give airlines the ability to manage their wi-fi networks in a more efficient way.

It’s Only a Matter of Time—We’re Just Not Sure How Much

There are, unfortunately, a few snags in the ability to roll this out immediately with great fanfare. Some of the major companies (we’re looking at you, American Airlines and Gogo) still haven’t signed on. Plus, companies overall might be concerned with the cost of inevitably having to update their systems—though Mandala says it won’t really be that expensive.

“There are market forces at work that are ready to drive down costs, given the capacity that’s coming online,” he told Bloomberg. “Going to these standards will knock down these artificial barriers that’s holding back this big growth in the market.”

As it stands right now, though, thanks to limited browsing and glitches, connectivity problems, and no desire to pay, only about 10 percent of customers purchase in-flight internet. Why pay for the whole thing when you can stream for free?

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