10 in-flight Wi-Fi services

Telecoms

by Michael Moore| 08 July 2014

Which airlines provide sky-high connectivity? And are the prices sky high?

Would you choose an airline based on its connectivity charges?
As the world of business becomes ever more international which airlines provide connectivity and how much does it cost?
Here are ten examples stretching from Aeroflot to South West Airlines.

Lufthansa

The German carrier has FlyNet, its 'limitless communication service', installed across 91% of its long-haul aircraft. Provided by its partner Panasonic Avionic Networks, it allows both Wi-Fi and 3G/4G connectivity (but no voice calling, following the results of a customer poll) making Lufthansa the largest internet-enabled long-haul fleet in the world.

The service, available across its A380 fleet, connects automatically when a customer accesses the internet on-board, with a special FlyNet portal offering all the latest news, weather, and information on current Lufthansa flights. However, the service automatically disconnects on any services flying over China due to local laws that turn it off when entering Chinese airspace.

Travellers in all classes can also enjoy the airline's free live TV channel, Sport 24, which offers highlights of football, tennis, Formula One and golf, which will either be integrated into the in-flight entertainment portal or available to stream over a Wi-Fi device.

Customers can access mobile Wi-Fi if their operator has a roaming agreement with the service provider on board, AeroMobile, with billing done through a customer's native operator. Customers of Deutsche Telekom or one of its affiliated roaming partners (including T-Mobile and EE) can pre-register before their flight, allowing them log on easily and conveniently with your access data when on board.

Lufthansa is also currently running a promotional offer with German operator Deutsche Telekom (also known as T-Mobile), with a HotSpot Sky pass for two hours of on-board Internet access available for only €9 instead of the usual price of €10.95 an hour. 24 hour passes can also be bought for those long-haul flights, costing €15.

Singapore Airlines

Another airline that has teamed up with OnAir and Panasonic, Singapore Airlines offers Wi-Fi connectivity aboard its A380 and Boeing 777-300ER fleet, as well as the older A340-500 aircraft. The airline, which was the first to introduce satellite-based in-flight telephone service in 1991, spent $50m on upgrading its fleet in 2012 as part of its In-Flight Connectivity Programme.

The service operates when the aircraft is at cruising altitude and is flying over international waters or authorised countries, meaning certain routes might see drop-offs in connectivity. Users can also send and receive SMS text messages with GSM-compatible mobile phones.

With both operators providing services, price plans vary depending on which flight is taken, and will either be volume-based (e.g. US$9.99 for 10 MB) or time-based (e.g. US$11.95 for 1 hour), with a summary of your purchase being sent to you via email. Customers of Singapore-based StarHub can also enjoy a special discount, accessing unlimited data for just S$25 a day.

The airline also offers a personal in-seat telephone which allows travellers to make calls to virtually anywhere in the world via a global satellite network, as well as letting you to make seat-to-seat calls free of charge.

JetBlue

New York-based Jet Blue, which runs low-cost flights primarily throughout the US and Caribbean, offers its Fly-Fi service on a number of its flights, with plans for a full rollout across its fleet later in the year.

Provided in association with LiveTV, Fly-Fi 's basic 'Simply Surf' plan is currently free to travellers as the company puts it through a beta testing period. However services for bandwidth-heavy applications such as streaming movies and large downloads are available for purchase on the airline's Fly-Fi Plus plan at $9/hour.

Fly-Fi uses Ka-band technology, meaning it works differently to existing Ku-band satellites, and should in theory provide faster reaction and download times as the network allows higher bandwidth communications. The company is hoping to roll out Fly-Fi to its entire fleet over the course of two years, with several planes installed every month, beginning with its Airbus aircraft throughout 2014, followed by its Embraer E190s.

 

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