September 22, 2023

The Evolution of Airline Technology: Why Wi-Fi is Becoming a Must-Have Amenity 

t mobile airplane wifi

t mobile airplane wifi

Have you ever had an important message from a loved one, or an urgent email demanding your attention and anticipation – but you had to board a plane and disconnect? We’ve been there, and let’s put it mildly the frustration can be anxiety-inducing! 

But, lucky for us, this scenario is quickly becoming a thing of the past. More and more airlines now include Wi-Fi access in their airplanes, allowing passengers to resume their communication with their loved ones, and even perform job-related tasks online mid-flight. Let’s see how airplane WiFi works, and what are the benefits of it.  

Can You Use The Internet On An Airplane? 

First things first, can you use the internet on an airplane, flying tens of thousands of feet in the air? 

The answer is yes but with a caveat. Not all airlines offer internet access on their flights, so internet availability will depend on the airline you’re using, and sometimes even your travel route and the model of the aircraft. Your best bet is to check with the airline itself; some airlines provide it for free, while others require purchasing an internet plan. 

While most airlines don’t charge for their internet connection, some do, and some offer quite powerful data transfers. Ensuring a blazing-fast internet connection while flying can be costly, but for those who are doing important business in the air, it may be a smart investment. For everyone else, the free (but sometimes sluggish) Wi-Fi on board will do just fine. 

How Does In-Flight Wi-Fi Work? 

So far, humanity has devised two ways to make in-flight internet possible. 

The first way relies on using a so-called Air to Ground (ATG) network, which is a set of antenna towers on the ground to which the airplane connects as it moves across the land. Then, the airplane’s system transfers this internet connection to the passengers via a Wi-Fi router. However, this system is far from reliable, since it doesn’t support an internet connection whenever an airplane flies overseas or oceans. 

The second, and many argue, the superior way for enabling Wi-Fi on airplanes has to do with connecting to satellites up in space. This approach solves the obstacle of having no internet connection on oversea routes, since the airplane connects to the nearest satellite in orbit, and then transfers the internet connection to the passengers via its own Wi-Fi router in turn. 

So How Do You Get Wi-Fi On A Plane? 

Airlines will usually make it known if their flight includes an internet connection, either when you’re booking the ticket, or upon boarding the plane. Once in the plane, the process is typically very simple. All you’ll need to do is turn on Airplane Mode but turn on your Wi-Fi connectivity. Then, all you need to do is choose the aircraft’s Wi-Fi network, connect to it, and you’re good to go! 

What Technologies Are Currently In Use For Wi-Fi On Airplanes? 

At this time, aircraft rely on two types of technologies to provide their passengers with an internet connection. These are the ATG (Air-to-ground) network technology, and the satellite-based approach. 

The Importance Of A Reliable In-Flight WiFi Connection 

Some readers may find themselves asking – why? After all, many flights are relatively short distances, and surely, being offline for a few hours isn’t that bad, right? Well, yes, and no. It depends on your needs and the situation you find yourself in. Here are some of the most important reasons, or rather benefits, for having a good Wi-Fi connection during a flight. 

Productivity and business 

A stable in-flight WiFi connection enables business travelers to check their emails, communicate with important team members, and access important documents. Some deadlines are not to be missed! 


Having a steady stream of TV shows, movies, or music on demand will make long flights more pleasant and manageable for many passengers. Without pleasant distractions, some people may find themselves bored, restless, or even suffering anxiety and panic attacks.  


Communication is important, and not just for pleasure. It is sometimes crucial to inform your friends or relatives of the precise time you’ll arrive if your flight was delayed, and so on. 

Revenue Opportunity 

But enough about passengers, here’s a benefit for airlines – they can charge for that internet access. It may be pocket change, but with tens of thousands of passengers per day, offering Wi-Fi access can be a welcome revenue stream for many airlines

How Airlines Are Working To Improve In-Flight WiFi? 

In-flight technology is developing fast, and we’re seeing advances in the satellite-based approach to connectivity in particular. 

A notable example is Norwegian Air, which has offered free Wi-Fi on all of their European flights by using a system called CabinConnect™ since 2011. The system is produced by Collins Aerospace, and in turn, relies on Inmarsat’s GX’s ever-expanding fleet of orbital communication satellites. Inmarsat has expanded greatly since its launch, and can now offer fast, reliable internet access to passengers all across the globe. Well, with the possible exclusion of flights over the Earth’s poles. 

So in case you’re taking frequent flights over the Arctic Circle, or Antarctica, your internet will be shaky. But for everyone else, the current setup will do just fine!