Slow and often patchy internet connectivity offered by major airlines may soon be a thing of the past thanks to Elon Musk’s Starlink technology, which utilises the fleet of SpaceX satellites to provide high-speed wifi, with low ping, and low latency.
Two American airlines, Hawaiian and JSX, have partnered with SpaceX to offer high-speed connection. This would allow passengers to stream movies, work interrupted from flights, and even make video calls without stuttering and poor picture quality. Major airline Delta is already testing the technology.
There are hopes that, if successful, the technology could be rolled out across Europe.
Currently, aircraft rely on geostationary satellite connections. These satellites orbit 30,000 kilometres above ground. The satellites used by SpaceX, on the other hand, operate in low orbit, just 550 kilometres, and allow much faster connection speeds.
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Current long-haul transpolar flights cannot use ordinary geostationary satellite connections. The new technology would allow for nearly global coverage.
Hawaiian Airlines has already stated that the new, high-speed connection could be offered free of charge to customers, without any need to connect to special portals.
Some airlines have now dropped charges for using low-intensity messaging applications such as Whatsapp and Facebook messenger. Others now have flat rate fees for wifi, although good connectivity is far from assured.