Demystifying The History of In-flight Wi-Fi

Airplanes have offered internet Wi-Fi support for a few decades, but only recently became available on flights. Only over a decade ago, it was uncommon to even have a generator or electricity on an airplane and passengers had ‘vanish’ as they flew towards their destinations.

But in recent years, in-flight Wi-Fi has lost its novelty and is now increasingly in demand. Travellers want to be connected to the internet, but they also want it to happen seamlessly on airplanes.

It is not a secret that the wait for in-flight Wi-Fi was long but does anyone know why this happened? This article will tell you how it all started and what people can expect from in-flight Wi-Fi in the future.

What Does In-flight Wi-Fi Mean?

It is an internet service during flights that gives users access to the internet. It keeps them afloat by providing them with a connection to the world while they’re flying.

For example, to get connected, one needs a Wi-Fi enabled device such as a smartphone, tablet, and laptop to be able to both send and receive signals with the airplane’s antennae, a satellite, and a ground station.

Wi-Fi is a term that has become increasingly important to everyone. Helping you access information and do your social media tasks on the go, it’s becoming more and more common in every locale.

History of In-flight Wi-Fi

The cost and use of in-flight Wi-Fi has changed over the last decade. It all started in the early 2000s when Boeing introduced the Connexion using the Ka-Band satellite model.

Lufthansa was the first airline to offer in-flight Wi-Fi back in 2004. It had many issues, but its rollout didn’t stop there. It continued to improve until they finally launched their Wi-Fi on smartphones.

Due to the 9/11 terror attack that happened in 2001, other interested local airlines pulled out of the project causing Boeing to lose a lot of money leading to the disbandment of their project in 2006.

Commissioner Joe Bastian and Chairman David Keating of the aircraft company reportedly said that the market for their novel invention wasn’t ready for release in the way it was. However, the effort has helped to set an example for many other companies in the aviation industry with the release of the first iPhone by Apple in subsequent year.

2007 – 2018

The in-flight internet providers that stemmed from the idea behind [Connexion] began key into the idea of deploying Wi-Fi onto airplanes. Among those internet providers was Viasat, an internet company with connections like no other in terms of bandwidth connectivity.

JetBlue Airways is the first passenger airline to provide in-flight internet service. Viasat skillfully improved its Skylinks Communication System to support this service.

JetBlue’s new internet service, offering 30 Mb broadband connectivity, was well received. The service demonstrates that a plane ride can be used productively when passengers enjoy the convenience of wireless internet access during takeoff and landing.

With the invention of smartphones with Apple, the transformation of in-flight Wi-Fi has been able to take place. Mobile phones are now able to offer Wi-Fi and connect to the internet system, which allows passengers to enjoy faster and more superior internet services like one on the ground.

Viasat is a satellite internet high speed provider. Since then, they have upgraded to ViaSat-2 in 2017 and they offer much more speed and coverage with more airlines and the marine sector also keying into their service.

Other companies offer their own version of in-flight Wi-Fi. For example, Gogo offers a pin based service.

In-flight Wi-Fi In Present Times

Today, in-flight internet is no longer as of a luxury. Due to the demand for travelers and their constant need for Wi-Fi connections, many airlines have begun offering this service.

Airlines often struggle with providing free in-flight wifi to passengers, but companies can help them solve this problem. One solution is developing a long-term relationship with an airline by offering well known brands.

Through sponsorship from major companies, airlines are successful in meeting their customers’ demands. Airlines use retail advertisements, discounts and promotions as a few ways to reach this goal successfully.

One of the few airlines that offers free in-flight Wi-Fi is JetBlue. They partnered with Amazon so you can try their services for free for a month.

The benefits of this venture outweigh the disadvantages. Amazon can sign up more customers to Amazon Prime while JetBlue can continue offering Viasat’s high-quality in-flight Wi-Fi service to its passengers for free

The air transport industry is among the most demanding sectors. Internet service providers constantly update their technology to keep up with demand.

Prominent Service Providers Of In-flight Wi-Fi

In-flight Wi-Fi companies are companies that provide airlines with in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity via air-to-ground or satellite-based technology. A few popular service providers in the world include but are not limited to the following:

  • Gogo
  • Viasat
  • Panasonic Avionics Corporation
  • Thales
  • Inmarsat

Airlines Popular For Offering In-flight Wi-Fi Service

Airlines such as Delta, American, and Hawaiian Airlines were first to invest in Wi-Fi. The technology was developed to stay competitive while also satisfying customers.

  • Alaska Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Air Canada
  • Delta Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Ryanair
  • American Airlines
  • United Airlines

How In-flight Wi-Fi Function On Airplanes

This is for your convenience. There are two types of connectivity for in-flight Wi-Fi, one of which allows you to connect regardless where the aircraft is.

  • Air-to-ground (ATG), and
  • Satellite.

Air-to-ground (ATG) System

Ground-based ATG systems operate with signals between the aircraft and ground, giving the air traffic control tower something to work with. Antennas positioned underneath airplanes send and receive transmissions to/fro the cell towers below. These transmissions move with different cell towers as the airplane travels.

Sometimes getting ATG is difficult because there are not many cell towers in distant parts of the land or over oceans and seas. There can be network outages occasionally as well.

Satellite-based System

The system relies on satellite technology because it is mounted above airplanes. The antennae used to transmit and receive signals point at other satellites orbiting the Earth.

This Wi-Fi system is designed to make strong connections when other options are unavailable, such as in areas above sea or at the ocean. But near the water there will be some latency introduced that may cause people to think it is not a high quality internet.

Satellite Wi-Fi is of two types;

The original Ku-band utilizes varying frequencies depending on the surface type.

The Future of In-flight Wi-Fi

Technology development continues to help make in-flight Wi-Fi service more in demand. It may allow passengers to have free Wifi when they find it first on the ground, making traveling easier. At the moment, though, some companies are striving for gate-to-gate connectivity.

Viasat brought in-flight Wi-Fi services to people next year. They compare the current technology to what can be found in people’s homes and say it will be a better experience.

People will benefit from an interconnected approach. The government can provide better service to its people through a more efficient system of delivering quick and timely transmissions for incoming flights, as well as more individualized service for passengers.


In-flight Wi-Fi providers have come a long way since being developed in the late 2000s. Today, we enjoy faster and stronger airline Wi-Fi from services like Gogo’s 2Ku, GX Aviation, and Viasat’s third satellite installation.

The majority of passengers expect the Wi-Fi in their planes to be a reliable, speedy, and efficient way of internet connectivity that is easy and quick to access.

The introduction of broadband technology has enabled the internet service providers to introduce modern technologies via the internet.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is In-flight Wi-Fi Available On Airplanes?

Yes, airlines now offer in-flight Wi-Fi. It is accessible via internet service providers on board their jets.

Do Airlines Offer Free In-flight Wi-Fi?

Yes. These airline offer free Wi-Fi in their business, thus improving things for passengers.

Can I Stream Videos On Airplanes?

Yes. Airlines often have free in-flight movie services. Depending on which airline you’re flying, this means that passengers can watch movies for free.



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