Why In-Flight Wi-Fi Is Still Slow and Expensive

An anonymous reader writes: Let’s grant that having access to the internet while on an airplane is pretty amazing. When airlines first began offering it several years ago, it was agonizingly slow and somewhat pricey as well. Unfortunately, it’s only gotten more expensive over the years, and the speeds are still frustrating. This is in part because the main provider of in-flight internet, Gogo, knows most of its regular customers will pay for it, regardless of cost. Business travelers with expense accounts don’t care if it’s $ 1 or $ 10 or $ 50 — they need to stay connected. Data speeds haven’t improved because Gogo says the scale isn’t big enough to do much infrastructure investment, and most of the hardware is custom-made. A third of Gogo-equipped planes can manage 10 Mbps, while the rest top out at 3 Mbps. There’s hope on the horizon — the company says a new satellite service should enable 70 Mbps per plane by the end of the year — but who knows how much they’ll charge for an actual useful connection.

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