Everything Wrong With In-Flight WiFi | Untangled


Airplane WiFi is slow
and usually expensive. And just because
you’re paying more doesn’t necessarily mean
you’re getting more. You may not
get WiFi until you’re 10,000 feet in the air, and when you do get it,
it may be slow and spotty. Even so, people are still
willing to cough up their cash to post pictures
of clouds mid-flight, or do some actual work. The industry is
expected to be worth $130 billion by 2035. But if it’s such
a huge industry, why does in-flight
WiFi still suck? First, we need to talk
about how these planes, speeding around at
hundreds of miles an hour, 36,000 feet in the air,
can even get WiFi. There are two ways: towers on the ground
or satellites in space. Let’s look at the towers. This method is called
air-to-ground, or ATG for short. Antennas on the
belly of the craft pick up signals from cell
towers on the ground. The benefit? You’ll get less delay
because the towers are closer to your
plane than a satellite. The downside? No towers, no signals. That means when
you’re flying over large bodies of water, above mountains,
or passing over countries with cell towers
that restrict WiFi access, you probably won’t
get any WiFi. So, what about satellites? The big dome-shaped
antenna on top of the plane will pick up signals
from the satellites. These satellite-based
systems will either use Ku-band or Ka-band
connections, which is similar
to 3G versus 4G. There’s a whole
debate on whether Ku or Ka band is better, but they’re both way
faster than ATG systems. But when you’re
sharing internet with a couple hundred
other people, traveling 500
miles per hour, 36,000 feet in the air, there’s bound to be
a hiccup or two. But towers versus satellite
isn’t the only thing that affects whether
you’ll be able to stream this week’s episode of
“The Bachelor” or not. The quality and price
of your in-flight WiFi actually depend on
four more things: your airline, aircraft, the in-flight WiFi provider, and the region you’re
traveling to and from. First of all, in an
effort to cut costs, some airlines, like Frontier,
don’t even offer WiFi. If your airline
does offer WiFi, it could be free, or go all the way up to
$30 for an all-day pass. But just because the
airline offers WiFi doesn’t mean your
plane supports it. Some aircraft aren’t even
built with WiFi capabilities. An American Airlines
Boeing 738 might have
satellite-based WiFi, but an American Airlines
Boeing 757 might not. Then there’s the provider. They all offer different
speeds, which is crucial for watching
those meltdowns in HD. And lastly, you’ll need
to factor in your route. If you’re flying over a lot
of mountains or an ocean, there probably won’t be
many towers along the way. And if the plane
isn’t equipped to receive
satellite internet, you’ll be completely
out of luck. For a while, Hawaiian
Airlines didn’t want to invest in in-flight WiFi because the technology
along their flight paths crossing the Pacific
Ocean was sparse, but communication
companies are launching new satellites, and Hawaiian is rethinking
the investment. So, why
isn’t everyone upgrading their
equipment? For some airlines, it’s just
not their highest priority. Upgrading equipment
means taking planes out of service for a few days, which means
airlines lose money. It also means budgeting
for new infrastructure. Plus, at least one
in-flight provider has 10-year contracts
with some of the airlines, which doesn’t leave
a lot of wiggle room for upgrades and changes. But better and
faster in-flight WiFi is definitely on its way. American Airlines, for
example, is making moves to invest in better
in-flight WiFi. One survey showed
that 67% of passengers would rebook
with an airline if high-quality
WiFi were available. In other words,
good WiFi means customer satisfaction
and loyalty. Airlines have good reason
to upgrade their offerings, so it might not be
a bad call for airlines to speed up the process. But for now, you’re
probably better off saving your reality-TV binge
for when you get home. Producer: That’s how
a plane moves…. For sure.


100 Responses

  1. aarocka11

    October 17, 2019 2:36 pm

    Not bad vid considering she mispronounced Ku and Ka. They should be pronounced Kay ewe and Kay ayyyyyy respectively.

  2. Ummi Jaan

    October 17, 2019 5:20 pm

    0:28 lol good one
    Nobody provides service on some expected future net worth numbers.
    It's still around a billion in 2019.

  3. Duran

    October 17, 2019 7:25 pm

    First thing, no one streams the bachelor but u.
    Second, I never heard anyone pronounces KU & KA bands, koo & kaa 🥴

  4. trash named alana

    October 17, 2019 11:06 pm

    when i was on american airlines they had free wifi for t mobile customers.. it worked pretty well tbh

  5. Roscoe

    October 18, 2019 12:03 am

    ATG sucks and so does satellites for onboard wifi. The speed of the aircraft, flight level and the fact that it passes through remote places just make it a really bad experience.

  6. Azophi

    October 18, 2019 12:35 am

    Imagine streaming 4k videos on all of your devices at the same time
    Now imagine everyone doing that … on a plane 20000 feet in the air, over the pacific ocean.
    Have fun getting good speeds!

  7. Raymond Chan

    October 18, 2019 6:23 am

    That's why I download 20 something medium-long videos before I took an airplane across the pacific ocean

  8. Roma Taliona

    October 18, 2019 8:30 am

    On ground I love WiFi but when I'm on a plane I just enjoy it…..it's nice to look out the window if you have a window seat. If not then I normally just mess with the in flight entertainment system. :3

  9. elevat1on

    October 18, 2019 4:53 pm

    Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has Wifi that actives as soon as you leave the gate. Works totally fine for streaming YouTube in 720p too.

  10. washthebrain

    October 18, 2019 9:01 pm

    Oh man, WestJet in Canada offers wifi, it’s $11 for 1.5hours and they don’t tell you till after you pay that you can’t access any media sites. YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, all blocked. I was forced to literally read news articles for 1.5 hours it was torture. Never again.

  11. momo3369

    October 18, 2019 9:49 pm

    Did you just seriously say Koo and kah band?? There is K band. Then you have under K band pronounced K-U for K under. Ka is the same but above k band. So K-A. And they are both radar commonly used by police.

  12. The Analytical Menace

    October 19, 2019 5:25 am

    In-flight WiFi may be one of the greatest scams of all time. Which….is vexingly ingenious when you think about it.

  13. steven west

    October 19, 2019 9:11 am

    I use to save anime episodes on my phone but I haven't had to do it for months, sovivdomt worry about it, but when I do need it, I feel like I coulda prevented it haha

  14. canvas11xD

    October 19, 2019 5:15 pm

    Airlines choose to get the cheapest WiFi. I flew United and purchased their WiFi. All I could do was read emails and it was 10 bucks. I don’t know if it had to do with being in economy. I’ve flown Jetblue multiple times and their WiFi is free and I can watch YouTube on it.

  15. Loghtsy

    October 19, 2019 6:41 pm

    In my plane we get 30 minute free trial if we log in with an email. I used a fake email generator to get infinite wifi for free

  16. oldtwins na

    October 20, 2019 4:35 am

    Video has terminology mixed up. Wifi is always free on airplanes that have them installed, but to connect to the internet is a different thing altogether. Only a slim pickings of airlines offer free internet connectivity. Else, your wifi connection is limited to the airplane's in flight LAN, which usually offers flight information and streaming videos that are stored on the airline itself.

  17. kene

    October 20, 2019 10:22 am

    Actually wifi on planes r good at least for Emirates and Delta, when I use I can text pretty fast and also post stuff.

  18. Mathias Emil Kuntz

    October 20, 2019 1:30 pm

    well. While your name is Tech Insider, you're really not inside of the tech here.
    1st: Cost of adding such a thing on the roof on an aeroplane is not worth it on most flight, too much drag/weight added.
    2nd: If you want better wifi on board the plane you need better infrastructure. The plane is not the problem however, it's easy to catch a signal on a plane if you have the proper infrastructure for it. I'm talking towers/satelites here. Best option would be to boost the existing tower's power by around 64. This would solve the overland internet.
    (however that's gonna consume 64x more electricity and that is gonna leave the globe in an even bigger enviromental crisis)
    Satelites? Will always be slow and laggy and inconsistent. It has to do with their movement, lack of power, vertical distance and interference.

  19. KRYSS

    October 20, 2019 9:24 pm

    What i always do while im taking a flight?

    1. Dont sleep at night before the flight and Took a sleeping pil before take off because i dont like turbulence
    2. Have a flight attendant to wake me up when the plane landing, make a move (hopefully shes single, abort mission if its a male flight attendant), and see if thats working or nah
    3. Repeat

    I called it “The Sleeping Beauty in the Air”

  20. Raven Rockz

    October 21, 2019 12:42 pm

    Instagram photos? Just takes photos and post on Instagram when you have wifi and said I had no wifi on the plane

  21. CMS

    October 22, 2019 3:01 am

    American has the best and the cheapest among legacy airlines. $19 for a 12 hour long flight, with download speed of 10 mbps

  22. Umar Farooq

    October 22, 2019 3:31 am

    I bet most people just get WI-FI to watch P**n in the air and beat their meat 40,000 feet up in the air.

  23. Umar Farooq

    October 22, 2019 3:32 am

    I bet most people just get WI-FI to watch P**n in the air and beat their meat 40,000 feet up in the air.

  24. FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation

    October 22, 2019 4:12 am

    Well, you first have to see if your American Airlines flight is delayed by a billion hours or cancelled before the plane even arrives.

  25. Brian

    October 23, 2019 1:15 am

    I took Air New Zealand last March from Auckland to SFO and they had free WiFi throughout the entire flight. That was awesome.

  26. Frankie is Naked

    October 24, 2019 3:01 am

    Yup, cant even pronounce Ka and Ku band. Think of it as acronyms for K Above and K Under, not a word.
    Three seconds on Youtube, Wikipedia or Google would have taught you this. Lazy reporting, just bitching about first world problems.

  27. November Lane

    October 24, 2019 6:56 am

    Really awesome interview with a really cool pilot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4FRpgCU65k&t=933s

  28. josiah sandberg

    October 24, 2019 9:33 am

    As someone who works with KU and KA band connections.. it’s not “coo” it’s K. U. And K. A.

  29. Sacto1654

    November 1, 2019 12:05 am

    I think this will change by the early 2020's. SpaceX's Starlink system will mean essentially gigabit-speed Internet in most of the world through a series of lower-altitude satellites, and that could mean vastly faster Internet at very low cost to airplanes and ships at sea.

  30. American Paisa

    November 4, 2019 5:27 pm

    You get 1 hour of Free WiFi if you’re a T-Mobile customer. It maybe the same with other cellphone companies. Check with your cellular service provider.

  31. ugway051

    November 5, 2019 11:31 am

    Be greatful that wifi option even EXISTS. 10 years ago, you couldnt even turn on your good ol nokia phones. Airplane mode? Not going to happen. Phone, CAMERA, and simple stuff like radio should be OFF. Period. But now, atleast you can open some websites to read news on for example. (Talking from experience on my local airline 's flight.


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