Boeing tried satellite-based communications for in-flight Internet way back in 2003, but failed. however, airlines seem to prefer a similar solution now. Why did Boeing’s connexion fail then, and why are similar solutions sought after now?
services only for limited periods.
Since the technology was so shaky at that point of time, passengers were not sure of how well or how long they would have connectivity, and hence were reluctant to pay for such a service. In addition, after the 9/11 attack, many of the US domestic airlines saw a reduction in their passenger traffic.
All of this made the initial adopters of the technology to back out, and finally so did Boeing! We can surmise that it was a good technology that came ahead of its time and hence crash-landed quite sadly.
“This reminds one of the discontinuation of the Motorola-led Iridium offering in the 1990s, which had the vision of providing a multi-satellite based voice network. The architecture was viable but the technology was not ready from cost and size viewpoints,” comments Dr Borkar.
Sealing the gap
A few years after Boeing’s failed attempt, Aircell came up with a new paradigm called air-to-ground (ATG) for offering in-flight Internet. Instead of using satellites, Aircell’s Gogo inflight Internet used ground- based cell stations just like typical terrestrial cellular systems. The ground station antennae pointed up to the planes and approximately a hundred stations were used to cover the skies of continental US. An antenna in the belly of the plane interfaced with these cell stations and allowed access inside the plane, using a Wi-Fi based local-area network (LAN).
Clearly, such a service is much more cost-effective than using satellites, but is limited primarily to coverage over land and not oceans.
Wi-Fi provided by Gogo Inflight Internet