Air travel has means different things for different people. While kids fight for a window seat to catch exciting views, business executives and frequent fliers prefer an isle seat so they can carry on with their work as usual. Now if someone like me, then flight time eats into your productive time just before a critical deadline. Thankfully, airlines and aviation authorities are opening up to the idea of in-flight Wi-Fi. And that’s happening in domestic Indian flights as well. Here’s how this new system works. Also Read - Mobile internet services suspended in parts of Haryana due to farmers’ protestAlso Read - Internet down: Zomato, Paytm, Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon, Myntra, many other global services suffered massive outage
If you board select Wi-Fi enabled flights in India or overseas, you’d be able to surf your favorite sites, read and respond to your emails, chat with friends on Facebook and WhatsApp. The Civil Aviation Ministry has been given a green signal from security firms to introduce in-flight Wi-Fi on domestic routes. But how exactly do you get internet 35,000 feet above sea level? To know more, we spoke to Neelu Khatri, President Aerospace, Honeywell India, to understand how in-flight Wi-Fi works. Also Read - Safer Internet Day 2021: Here's how you can ensure your online security
Types of technologies used for offering in-flight Wi-Fi
Depending on the flight path, altitude, location and in-flight bandwidth requirements, airlines could use either of two technologies to provide Wi-Fi services — air-to-ground (ATG) and satellite-based Ku-band and Ka-band. In case of ATG, ground stations are responsible for sending airwaves that airplanes latch on to, and connect with ground stations.
Once these signals are picked up, they are converted into standard Wi-Fi signals and then distributed to passengers. However, there are some factors that affect the Wi-Fi speeds, such as interference from objects, human bodies and more. ALSO READ: Everything you need to know about JetScreen, the in-flight entertainment service from Jet Airways
To ensure stable connectivity, most airlines choose to use satellite-based Ku and Ka bands. For shorter distances on domestic flights Ku-band is an idea choice, whereas for long haul flights traveling at higher altitudes, Ka-band is a perfect choice.
How internet is offered in-flight?
GX Aviation is the world s first and only operator to use Inmarsat s Global Xpress Ka-band network to offer high-speed aviation broadband service. It makes use of three satellites that cover the entire globe, expect the Polar Regions. Now, JetWave has received final certification from Inmarsat to connect with the GX Aviation system. JetWave is the Honeywell’s satellite communications hardware that is fitted on the aircraft so it can receive true broadband class connectivity via Inmarsat satellites. ALSO READ: In-flight Wi-Fi coming soon to India as security firms give the green signal: Report
What type of hardware is fitted in planes?
While Inmarsat offers the connectivity network, hardware providers like Honeywell offer the equipment required for receiving signals from the satellite. The hardware, Honeywell s JetWave antenna in this case, is mounted on exterior of the aircraft. The equipment is very lightweight to minimize fuel burn and it is protected by a streamlined radome. The comprises of fuselage-mounted directional antenna, radio frequency (RF) and modem hardware. It is capable of reaching maximum download speeds of up to 14.2Mbps. ALSO READ: In-flight internet may be reality in India by end of August: Report
In-flight Wi-Fi is also helpful for the pilots
Besides offering passengers with a service to access high-speed internet at 35,000 feet, in-flight Wi-Fi also proves to be helpful for the pilots. They can use apps on their smartphones to carry out important flight operations. Flight crews can also collect weather related data to determine the best flight paths, avoid bad weather conditions and turbulence. This also eliminates the need of contacting air traffic control or planes ahead for weather updates.
What about security?
As airplanes have evolved over the years from being purely mechanical to a highly interconnected cyber-physical system, it also creates opportunities for cyber security attacks. However, the flight crew has complete control of the airplane and they also get the ability to override flight systems. Also, the Wi-Fi system in the cabin is only dedicated to the passengers, whereas the network in the cockpit is separate, serving as an additional security measure.
Also, while one may be concerned as to whether or not the Wi-Fi would interfere with aircraft s communication with the air-traffic-control, it is not so. With connectivity in the cockpit, pilots can communicate with the ATC through a text-message like system called controller-pilot data link communications (CPDLC). This enables pilots around the world to take advantage of more efficient routes like on traffic between the United States and Europe over the North Atlantic, Khatri said.
Sure, with in-flight Wi-Fi, your air travel is set to become even more exciting. However, there is still some time until the dream turns into a reality. It may take a couple of months or happen by the end of this year, or sometime next year. As of now, there is no word on the domestic airlines that will be offering in-flight Wi-Fi, nor there is any word on tariff plans. But we are expecting more details to pour in as the launch draws closer.
Photo – gogoair