Broadband surfing on the flight takes off

Have you taken a flight lately? The Internet and calls from the plane were long an expensive and rare service.  Not anymore. Major carriers in Scandinavia are moving their fleet to the broadband Internet even on short and medium distance hauls.

Major Nordic carriers like Finnair are moving their fleet to the broadband Internet even on short and medium distance hauls.

Finnair, a flag carrier of Finland, will install a high-speed wireless internet network on its entire Airbus A320 series short-haul fleet flying in Europe. The installation of the WiFi equipment will begin in May 2017 and will be completed by June 2018.

Scandinavian Airlines, which is the largest of Nordic carriers, was one of the first airline companies in the world to offer its customers wireless Internet on-board their flights back in 2004.

SAS is now equipping its short and medium-haul fleet to offer on-board WiFi speeds of at least 12 Mbps and higher to each passenger. This ensures that time spent on board will be more productive and enjoyable with streaming TV, music and films. The first aircraft with the new WiFi-system will enter service in the second half of 2017.

ViaSat will be the prime contractor to SAS. It will make available its vertically-integrated in-flight Internet system. That includes wireless In-Flight Entertainment system support and passenger-facing access portals. SAS fleet will have an end-to-end service on the flight that will leverage connectivity from Eutelsat. The connectivity service uses KA-SAT, Eutelsat’s high-capacity Ka-band broadband satellite whose service area spans Europe and the Mediterranean Basin.

ViaSat makes similar broadband Internet services possible also for Finnair’s customers.  The new system will offer the fastest in-flight Internet connection currently available on the market. The service level and speeds are similar as what ViaSat provides for SAS.  ViaSat will ensure end-to-end in-flight connectivity service across the Finnair fleet.

Oslo-based Norwegian Air Shuttle, better-known just as ‘Norwegian’  is the world’s sixth largest low-cost airline. It operates 450 routes to destinations around the world. The company offers free WiFi on most of its flights in Europe, as well as on flights between the U.S. and the Caribbean.  However, WiFi is currently not available on Norwegian’s long-haul flights.

Over 18,000 passengers access Norwegian’s free WiFi every day, with the biggest demand on routes to and from Spain. People have consumed over 500 terabytes of data since the service was introduced in 2011. This data consumption is the equivalent of streaming 1.2 million songs, receiving 170 million emails or watching 25,000 hours of Netflix.

Like Finnair and SAS satellite solution, Norwegian WiFi works via an antenna fitted to each aircraft. The antenna is mounted on the fuselage in the aircraft.

Norwegian uses Global Eagle Entertainment’s (GEE)  Airconnect In Flight Entertainment & Communications system.  Just recently in January 2017, GEE, headquartered in California, boosted its global satellite capacity by acquiring a Ku-band payload on SES’s AMC-3 satellite.  SES, previously known as  Société Européenne des Satellites is based in Luxembourg and operates a fleet of more than 50 active and occasional use geostationary communications satellites.

Faster satellite connections

Satellite technology opens huge opportunities to provide fast Internet service to airlines. The first generation of Internet access to the airplanes was based through ground hookups. The ground hookups made connections quite slow, expensive and even unreliable.

ViaSat has partnered with Eutelsat to deliver the high-speed satellite-based Internet service, which will cover the entire European continent.

ViaSat is currently working with Boeing Satellite Systems to launch ViaSat-3 ultra-high capacity satellite platform with three new satellites. It will support each aircraft with hundreds of Mbps of in-flight connectivity services and video streaming. The new satellites will start to operate in 2019 and also offer affordable satellite WiFi connectivity to the billions of unconnected people in emerging markets.