FCC Has a Plan to Speed Up In-Flight Broadband
New, Faster Network Using the 14 GHz band
The FCC this week announced that they're targeting 500 MHz of additional airwaves
that could be opened up to help improve in-flight broadband services. Currently, most in-flight broadband either rely on congested satellite broadband bandwidth, or skyward-pointed ground to air EVDO antenna arrays. The latter frequently provides only 3 Mbps or so per plane
, though companies like GoGo have been working on pushing that to around 9.8 Mbps per plane
The new FCC proposal
is based on an older Qualcomm plan to free up spectrum in the 14.0-14.5 GHz band, which is predominately used for uplink satellite communications. Some 150 towers would be used across the country, each capable of delivering 300 Mbps to any passing planes, a significant improvement over current technologies.
That added capacity might
improve in-flight broadband prices, but might not. In-flight broadband pricing from the dominant in-flight provider (GoGo) has turned off most customers, many of whom have grown accustomed to free Wi-Fi in airports and elsewhere. That hasn't been helped by the fact that GoGo keeps jacking up prices
Last December, the FCC announced that they had sped up the approval process
necessary to operate Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA), something the FCC at the time claimed would speed up in-flight broadband deployment by 50%.
"The reality is that we expect and often need to be able to get online 24/7, at home, in an office or on a plane," insisted outgoing FCC boss Julius Genachowski at a meeting this week. "This will enable business and leisure travelers aboard aircraft in the United States to be more productive and have more choices in entertainment, communications and social media, and it could lower prices."
Meanwhile, a study
was released this week by the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association that found that a significant portion of flyers never turn off their devices when flying. Those organizations have been pressuring regulators to ease off in-flight restrictions regulators claim are in place to limit interference, but also to prevent devices from becoming projectiles during takeoff and landing turbulence.
The FTC has been rather glacially examining the easing off of these rules
for the last several years.