How Does In-Flight Wi-Fi Works?

Guys, gone are the days of missing important business mails while your are in the air. Nowadays you can be connected with everything on Earth while you are in an airplane. Guess how? The technology being utilized for this purpose is nothing but the In-Flight Wi-Fi.

The In-Flight Wi-Fi  help you connect with everything on internet using the Wi-Fi technology that is specially designed to use inside and airplane. The technology is spreading over and changing the way you fly. In this article we will explain in detail the working of In-Flight Wi-Fi and how to get wifi on a plane.

How Wi-Fi in Airplanes Work?

There is actually 2 ways by which the In-Flight Wi-Fi can be made possible.

#1. ATG (air-to-ground) Method

The first one is based on the ground based mobile broadband towers that sends the signals to the airplane antennas usually fixed at the bottom side of the fuselage. While you travel in the flight, the airplane antenna automatically connect the nearest possible towers that can provide an uninterrupted internet connection. In practical, this seems to be difficult in case you fly over an ocean or other large water bodies where it is very difficult to find mobile tower. So there is a chance for the signal to get interrupted.


  • Needs frequent switching between stationary towers on the ground.
  • More Prone to network interruption.
  • Low Speed connection.
  • Supports only up to 30,000 feet high.

#2. Satellite IFC Method

The second way turns out to be more expensive yet practical in an airplane. This method actually makes use of the satellite technology to provide you an uninterrupted internet connectivity. Here, the network connectivity is made available by transmitting and receiving signal from a Geostationary satellite (about 35,000 km above the Earth). The passengers receive the Wi-Fi signal from an on-board router connected to the airplane antenna (usually fixed at the top) which receive signal from this satellite. This is similar to a technology used in Televisions, weather forecasting, etc.

The Satellite IFC mechanism can be further broken down into three categories viz.
  • L Band Satellite Communication
  • Ku Band Satellite Communication
  • Ka Band Satellite Communication
Now let's have a close look on each one of these and how the technology is made possible.

1. L Band Satellite Communication

The L band satellite is that which operates in the a range of 1-2 GHz. The airplane will usually be provided with satellite dish and radome in order to minimize the fuel consumption. When it comes to the connection speed the L band connectivity can only provide a speed of around 430 kbits/s.

2. Ku Band Satellite Communication

Ku Band satellites works in a range of 12-18 GHz that can offer a connectivity speed of 50 Mbps. These can only be used of light use however it is better that the L band yet inferior to Ka band satellite.

3. Ku Band Satellite Communication

Ka band offers the most advanced and better in-flight connectivity which works in a range of 26.5-40 GHz. This enable the passengers to enjoy an internet speed up to 12Mbps individually.


  • Highly expensive.
  • Chance of signal interruption due to relative motion between flight and satellite.

Why In-Flight Wi-Fi  is Slow?

Since the resources used by the large number of services, website, apps etc in the devices of the passengers the connectivity speed gets lowered. To reduce the stain on the resources and provide a high speed, the resources have to upgraded which is presently a tough task in case of the IFC.

Why is In-Flight Wi-Fi So Expensive?

The IFC (In-Flight Connectivity) is so expensive as the airplane should be equipped with the server and its accessories for mid-air conversion of Signals into packet data. This leads to an high installation cost.

Further more, the service providers charge a huge amount from the airlines to the get the connectivity which makes the on-board connectivity expensive.

Another factor that tends to shoot up the costs is the antenna. It increases the drag of the airplane which turns out to be significant. In view of the aerodynamic principles, it adds up the fuel consumption and in-turn makes it an expensive affair.

What's the Future of In-Flight W-Fi?

With the advent of the upcoming technologies the airplane Wi-Fi will be improved a lot. The passengers will be going to get an experience closer to what they are getting in their living rooms.

"Over half of the world’s aircraft will be equipped for in-flight Wi-Fi within the next six years.” says Inmarsat. “It is set to become a billion-dollar revenue sector by 2020.”

Hope you understood how the airplane Wi Fi works. If you have any doubts just drop a comment below.