Rapid progress in the speed of internet connectivity offered during flights means Virgin America customers may soon be able to stream online video.
As it stands the internet connectivity offered by airlines is often slow, and video services such as Netflix and YouTube are blocked in order to keep the network online. It may feel like a luxury to be able to check your emails and surf the web while cruising at 30,000 feet, but the experience is set to become a whole lot faster for those flying with Virgin America, writes Chris Welch for The Verge.
New partnership to offer faster satellite internet
The airline has announced a new partnership with ViaSat, which should bring high-speed WiFi capable of video and audio streaming to Virgin America planes. Virgin is set to receive 10 new A320 aircraft in September, all of which will be kitted out in order to provide the faster connection.
First of all the system will be tested during a program involving the company’s flights to Hawaii in the first few months of 2016. Over the course of the testing program, the WiFi will be free to customers, presumably in order to invite heavier use of the connection in order to test its capabilities.
“It uses Ka satellite across the domestic US. That will deliver speeds up to 30 times the speed of the original ATG that most airlines still fly, and 10 times what our current aircraft will do,” said David Cush, CEO of Virgin America, during an interview with CNBC.
Offer will make Virgin America stand out from the field
“It’s a dual antenna that also uses the Ku satellites across the Pacific, so we can have a single antenna offer very fast WiFi across the US and adequate Wi-Fi to Hawaii now,” he continued.
Cush went on to describe the new partnership with ViaSat as a “significant competitive advantage” for Virgin America. Although other airlines are making progress towards offering WiFi from Ka satellites, connections can only be offered on flights within the United States. “No one really has the combination of Ka and Ku,” said Cush.
Testing still needs to take place to prove Cush’ headline-grabbing claims, but if Virgin America and other airlines can successfully upgrade their internet connections, in-flight internet may soon offer the same capabilities as home internet.