FCC Wants To Increase The Speed of In-Flight Broadband

FCC Wants To Increase The Speed of In-Flight Broadband

Internet surfing on an airplane is the desire of many passengers and several airlines have already adapted to this need. In the U.S. about a quarter of domestic flights has internet connectivity, but the speed in flight is often unsatisfactory for passengers accustomed to take advantage of broadband connections anywhere.

Now the goal is thus to increase the availability of spectrum to enable fast wifi connections and provide access to even more voracious bandwidth services such as video streaming.

To this end, the Federal Communications Commission(FCC) has set a new consultation rules that would allow Internet service providers to share some radio waves (500 MHz in the band 14.0-14.5 GHz) with satellite-based services to enable in-flight data transmissions much faster than those currently available (which generally do not exceed 3Mbps). Among the most fervent promoters of these new measures is Qualcomm, which is lobbying on this issue for at least 2 years.

“At present, people want to have access to the internet 24 hours, wherever they are, at home, on the street, in the office and also on a plane,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The consultation, he added, “will significantly improve the quality and speed of access to the internet at high altitude.”

Currently there are two ways to offer internet services while in the air: via satellite or through air-land systems. The satellite systems using antennas placed at the top of the aircraft, the air-ground send signals between the terrestrial network and an antenna located at the bottom of the aircraft.

While, in the meantime, the Federal Aviation Administration will decide whether to authorize the use of smartphones and tablets during takeoff and landing, to a survey of the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association that 30% passengers ‘forget’ device access, in-flight despite several invitations to turn it off. 59% of the passengers turn it off entirely, 21% puts it in ‘airplane mode’ and 5% turn it off but not always.

Photo Credit: HotHardware

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