Wireless Internet inside plane

I just used reasonably priced wireless Internet in plane. I flew yesterday with Norwegian Boeing 737 plane. When the plane took off there was a surprising announcement on the plane: This plane has a free wireless Internet system on board. As soon as the plane is in flying altitude and the fasten your seatbelt light has bee turned on you are free to start to use your tablet or laptop with WLAN. Norwegian says that it is the first flight company that offers WiFi internet in the plane in Europe.

I tried the WLAN connection with a small tablet (5″ Deal Android tablet). When I opened the web browser I was forwarded to Norwegian plane home page that gave view to flight information like flight time, altitude, speed and route map. Quite ueful. That page has a button to activate free Internet connection. When I pressed I was forwarded to a web address in row44.com domain. The registering felt to be taking long time (at least 30 seconds). After registering Internet connection worked. I could access Internet well, but the connection had noticeable latency (extra several seconds) every time I opened a web page. But after some waiting things worked quite similarly what I would get with Internet through cellular network data (works but takes time to load pages). So not very broadband connection but worked acceptably.

I tried to figure out some details of the system they used. When looking at WLAN frequency use I saw there were two different channels in use with same similar naming. I quess they have two WLAN basestations on different channels to cover the airplane, not just one base station. The system seems use some form of Web Accelerator server on board. I got some 504 errors sometimes, and the error page told that the web accelerator system had problem with satellite connection. So based on that the system seems to be using a satellite uplink from plane to Internet. I could not do any actual performance testing of the network, because I could not get any speed test pages to work on my tablet (I am not sure if that problem was with my crappy tablet or if those pages were somwhow blocked). Some general details of the system can be found at Row 44 web page.


I think that Internet connection during flight is a good idea. Norwegian is planning to offer WLAN in all of it’s planes during 2012. I am waiting for other flight companies to catch up on this.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Watch inflight movies and TV on your personal device

    Starting this April, we’re rolling out our new personal device entertainment system onboard select aircraft. With this new service, sponsored by the MileagePlus® Explorer Card, you can choose from over 150 movies and nearly 200 TV shows and watch them free of charge on your personal device.

    Download the latest United app from the iTunes® App Store if you’ll be using a mobile device. Laptops do not require the app. (Android™ and other mobile devices are not fully supported at this time.)

    Most planes will be equipped with the new system very soon, and we’ll have it installed on most domestic aircraft by the end of 2014.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Technology Is Out There,’ but Satellites Don’t Track Jets

    Airlines routinely use satellites to provide Wi-Fi for passengers. But for years they have failed to use a similar technology for a far more basic task: tracking planes and their black-box flight recorders.

    Long before Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished on March 8, the global airline industry had sophisticated tools in hand to follow planes in real time and stream data from their flight recorders. But for a variety of reasons, mostly involving cost and how infrequently planes crash, neither the airlines nor their regulators adopted them.

    “The technology is out there, but it’s just a question of political will to recognize this is important,”

    Military airplanes and helicopters used in offshore exploration have flight-data recorders that can eject with a parachute in a crash. They emit a satellite signal that immediately transmits the aircraft’s identity and location.

    rescue operations could be considerably accelerated if airplanes were required to automatically send basic flight information via satellite — such as position, altitude, speed and direction — at much shorter intervals.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    AT&T plans in-flight internet move using its US 4G network
    Honeywell hardware will turn aircraft into internet nodes

    AT&T has one of the largest LTE networks in the US, and it has now signed an agreement with Honeywell to use the cellular grid to bring faster in-flight internet to air passengers.

    “Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet,” said John Stankey, chief strategy officer at AT&T. “We believe this will enable airlines and passengers to benefit from reliable high speeds and a better experience. We expect this service to transform connectivity in the aviation industry – we are truly mobilizing the sky.”

    In-flight internet is nothing new – Gogo has been beaming data back and forth between aircraft in the US for six years now from a network of around 300 cellular towers dotted across the US. But AT&T has many, many more cell towers than that, and the company reckons it can offer a faster and more reliable connection than its chief airline rival.

    “This technology should allow for voice calls as well as data, but that’s up to the airlines,” Jacobs said. “It’s not a technology challenge at this point, but a policy challenge.”

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    FAA’s Ruling On Smartphones During Takeoff Has Had Little Impact

    Airlines have seen almost no increase in the use of smartphones, tablets, and laptops among passengers since the Federal Aviation Administration ruled in October that they are now allowed to do so during takeoff and landing, a recent study found.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    USA to insist on pre-flight mobe power probe
    Prove it works or it can’t come aboard flights to USA

    The USA’s Transport Security Administration (TSA) has announced new, “enhanced security measures” that will require mobile phones to be fully-charged before taken aboard international flights to the nation.

    The new requirement is simple. As explained here, the new arrangements will mean that “During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.”

    The tests won’t be take place at every airport. Instead, “… certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States” will conduct the checks.

    It’s not clear what devices other than cell phones will be investigated

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Why hackers won’t be able to hijack your next flight – the facts
    Commercial aircraft are safe, for the time being

    Defcon 22 Two seasoned pilots, one of whom is a published hacking expert, have been puncturing some of the myths about aircraft hacking at Defcon 22.

    Firstly, no commercial airliner’s avionics systems can be accessed from from either the entertainment system or in-flight Wi-Fi. Avionics systems are also never wireless, but always wired, and don’t even use standard TCP/IP to communicate.

    Commercial aircraft networks use a variety of standards for data traffic, all derived from Ethernet but all subtly different in a way that would give hackers a very tough time.

    In all cases the signals sent are time-sliced

    Older commercial airplanes use a system called ARINC 429

    More modern aircraft use an updated standard, ARINC 664 – except for Airbus planes that use a modified version dubbed AFDX.

    The one exception to this is the Boeing 777, which uses a modified version of ARINC dubbed 629, which allows Boeing to use off-the-shelf network components in the aircraft. Boeing was also granted special leave to allow ARINC 629 to be linked into a standard IP network, but only for data outputs not inputs, and with no connections to the flight management or avionics systems.

    Earlier this week at the Black Hat conference security researchers from IOActive told of code flaws in the satellite communications equipment used by aircraft. It should be possible to disrupt communications with an aircraft and feed it false data they said, thanks to shoddy coding by the equipment’s manufacturers.
    the aircraft would still be able to communicate via VHF or HF

    Aircraft are in constant communication with the ground, and regular updates are sent out hourly

    It might be feasible to send false messages to an aircraft’s collision avoidance systems

    Polstra did however have words of warning; all of this information is as of the present day and things are changing in the aviation industry.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes

    During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted on board the aircraft.

  8. Craig says:

    Thank you for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your efforts and I
    will be waiting for your next post thank you once again.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Qantas, Virgin flyers to get uninterrupted mobile device use

    Passengers travelling with Qantas and Virgin Australia will imminently be able to leave their mobile phones and other small electronic devices on during take-off and landing, as part of new guidelines issued by the air safety regulator.

    Both the United States and European air regulators last year expanded guidelines for the use of electronic devices after finding the radio interference signals from mobile phones and tablets on board aircraft were not a safety concern.

    Read more: http://www.itnews.com.au/News/391332,qantas-virgin-flyers-to-get-uninterrupted-mobile-device-use.aspx#ixzz3BOdIBI8R

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    In-flight Wi-Fi provider Gogo scores Virgin Atlantic deal

    Virgin Atlantic will become the first European carrier to retrofit its entire fleet with Gogo connectivity — and, thankfully for the passengers, it will use Gogo’s satellite-based 2Ku system.

    Virgin Atlantic will equip its entire fleet with Gogo’s new 2Ku in-flight Wi-Fi service, which promises shared connections of up to 70Mbps via satellite link.

    That’s a substantial improvement on the shared 3.1Mbps that Gogo‘s current ground-based wireless broadband provides. For Gogo, the deal also marks significant territorial expansion: Although a definitive agreement is yet to be struck, England-based Virgin Atlantic is the first European carrier to sign up with the U.S. provider, with all of its aircraft in line to be hooked up.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Surface Pro 3 cleared for take-off, with FAA/EASA Electronic Flight Bag approval

    Microsoft’s popular and highly-regarded Surface Pro 3 could well be soaring to new heights soon, as the company has announced that the tablet has qualified for authorization to be used as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), under conditions defined by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

    EFBs replace the heavy and bulky paper documentation that airline pilots must carry with them on board, which includes flight navigational charts, aircraft technical reference materials, and other important information that may be needed in flight.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The European Aviation Safety Agency EASA on Friday decided to allow the use of mobile devices in Europe flights. Finnair answered the Helsingin Sanomat question, however, that the airline is new as soon as its own instructions.

    So far, the phone may be used on Finnair flights in offline mode.

    Helsingin Sanomat also asked whether the devices Switching off the air for the duration of flight safety, citing previously been in vain. Tallqvist responsible for aircraft and mobile devices, advanced technology, and that the matter has been new research.

    Source: http://www.tivi.fi/kaikki_uutiset/hs+kannykan+kaytto+lentokoneessa+sallitaan+euroopassa++finnair+ei+viela+muuta+saantojaan/a1015258

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Is in-flight WiFi messing with cockpit displays? The FAA thinks so.

    The FAA has ordered the replacement of various cockpit displays on more than 1,300 Boeing aircraft according to this article in the Wall Street Journal.

    In extreme cases, Wi-Fi devices in the cockpits of certain commercial jets can cause cockpit displays to flicker or temporarily blank out. FAA tests on the ground resulted in one outage lasting about six minutes.

    Over the next several years, airlines will be required to replace the displays in Boeing 777 and 737 aircraft in a precautionary measure to prevent issues like the one described above.

    The article did note that no inflight screen blackouts have actually occurred, but that the FAA was insistent that it could occur based on tests performed on the ground.

    Though industry groups argued the FAA was going too far because no display incidents have occurred in flight, the FAA said Boeing’s own tests determined that display “blanking was a safety issue.” If a screen went dark during takeoff or a landing approach, according to the FAA, the result could be “loss of control of the airplane.”

    The Chicago plane maker and Honeywell took voluntary action earlier to replace some of the units. Replacement screens have enhanced shielding and upgraded software, and those versions are now being installed on new jets in the factory. A Boeing spokesman said the FAA is ordering fixes the company recommended to airlines in 2012. On Tuesday, a Honeywell spokesman reiterated that “no display units have ever blinked in flight due to Wi-Fi interference.”

    FAA concluded that such interim safeguards were inadequate as “corrective action for the unsafe condition” identified by testing and formal risk analyses.

    The government insists airlines replace WiFi-allergic cockpit displays

    A fleet of 737s and 777s are definitely in line for an upgrade, now that the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered airlines to replace their cockpits’ displays with ones not vulnerable to WiFi signals.

    These screens, which showed pilots important flight data such as altitude and airspeed, flickered and even blanked out completely in the presence of WiFi. In one particular bad test run, the screen remained blank for a full six minutes.

    While that’s obviously not ideal, all the outages happened on the ground and only once during last year’s round of testing. So Honeywell (the displays’ maker) and Boeing just advised airlines to take their planes in and have those screens replaced — an action the FAA was content with back in 2012. (To note, Boeing has started fitting planes built in September 2012 and beyond with updated displays.)

    We’re guessing it’s because airlines are becoming more and more open to the use of WiFi devices onboard, not just by passengers, but also by the flight crew itself, and that has raised safety concerns.

    According to Reuters, though, around 1,300 US planes will have to be refitted with the new screens within the next five years. Since each display costs more than $10,000 each and each plane has several, the upgrade will cost airlines roughly $14 million in total.

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    FAA: Airlines Must Replace Boeing Cockpit Screens to Avoid Wi-Fi Interference

    U.S. regulators aren’t taking any chances with the discovery that Wi-Fi signals can cause flickering or temporary blank screens in the cockpits of Boeing passenger jets. On Tuesday, the FAA ordered airlines to replace the cockpit displays used by pilots in more than 1,300 Boeing aircraft over the next five years.

    The order comes as airline pilots have been using an increasing number of tablets and other Wi-Fi enabled devices in their cockpits during flights. According to the Wall Street Journal, Honeywell, the maker of the “phase 3″ cockpit displays, pointed out that the display interference was only previously detected during a developmental ground test with stronger-than-normal Wi-Fi signals and that no in-flight incidents have been reported. But the FAA ruling pointed to the low-risk, high-consequence scenario of a screen potentially going dark during takeoff or landing and leading to “loss of control of the airplane”—one FAA ground test led to a screen outage lasting six minutes.

    Boeing had previously recommended that airlines change out the cockpit displays in 2012, and Honeywell had voluntarily replaced some of the screens.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Flight Attendants Union Sues The FAA Over Use Of Electronics In Flight

    About a year ago, the FAA gloriously adjusted their guidance regarding the use of portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing. For the first time in years, travelers could boldly and proudly listen to music or play Two Dots or mindlessly click into social apps (forgetting there’s no service in the sky) without fear of reprimand from flight attendants.

    Turns out, the largest flight attendants union in the country aren’t enjoying the change.

    The Association of Flight Attendants argued in court on Friday that the FAA didn’t follow the proper protocol in changing guidelines around use of portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing. According to the AFA, portable electronic devices are distractions during safety announcements and can become dangerous projectiles.

    In response, a lawyer for the FAA (Jeffrey Sandberg) told judges that PEDs are no more dangerous than books that passengers have had out for years.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    LAX To London Flight Delayed Over “Al-Quida” Wi-Fi Name

    A flight from LAX to London was delayed after a passenger reported seeing “Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork” as an available hotspot name and reported it to a flight attendant.

    LAX flight delayed after WiFi hotspot name prompts concerns

    “After an hour, (the captain) said there was a security threat and that we didn’t have clearance to take off,”

    “After further investigation, it was determined that no crime was committed and no further action will be taken,”

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    United Airlines buys iPhone 6 Plus for all its flight attendants to handle payments, manuals & more

    United Airlines announced today that its more than 23,000 flight attendants will soon be carrying the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus for company use and servicing customers. The airline says it will be rolling out Apple’s phablet to its flight attendants starting next year during the second quarter and be used for onboard retail transactions, accessing company email and the airline’s website and internal network, and viewing airline manuals for policies and procedures.

    United Airlines says deploying the iPhone 6 Plus to its flight attendant staff will allow the airline to replace paper safety manuals in the future as it makes them available on the iPhone. Reporting aircraft cabin issues and receiving follow-up information on repairs will also be handled through the iPhone 6 Plus eventually, United says.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    United Going Paperless

    All United Airlines Flight attendants will soon be given the iPhone 6 Plus in the airline’s effort to become paperless, according to a recent statement. Delivery of a phone for each of the more than 23,000 attendants will begin the second quarter of 2015. They will initially be used for all retail transactions on flights, and provide access to company email, and employee areas of the website.

    Coming soon will be the attendant’s safety manual in electronic form, plus in an effort to keep them well-informed, real-time data regarding cabin issues and repairs. Tools for customers on their own iPhones will be coming soon as well. Pilots aren’t getting left out, receiving iPad Air 2s, taking the place of iPads issued to them in 2011.

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Gogo Inflight Internet is intentionally issuing fake SSL certificates

    SSL/TLS is a protocol that exists to ensure there exists an avenue for secure communication over the Internet. Through the use of cryptography and certificate validation, SSL certificates make man-in-the-middle attacks (where a third party would be able monitor your internet traffic) difficult, so the transmission of things like credit card numbers and user account passwords becomes significantly safer. In this case, performing a man-in-the-middle attack would require the attacker to attack the SSL certificate first before being able to snoop on someone’s traffic.

    For whatever reason, however, Gogo Inflight Internet seems to believe that they are justified in performing a man-in-the-middle attack on their users.

    This presents itself as an extremely unacceptable action by Gogo which serves in-flight internet to a number of different national and international airlines, including Aeromexico, American Airlines, Air Canada, Japan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, among many others.

    Earlier this year, it was revealed through the FCC that Gogo partnered with government officials to produce “capabilities to accommodate law enforcement interests” that go beyond those outlined under federal law.

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    In-Flight Service Gogo Uses Fake SSL Certificates To Throttle Streaming

    In-flight internet service Gogo has defended its use of a fake Google SSL certificates as a means of throttling video streaming, adding that it was not invading its customer’s privacy in doing so. The rebuttal comes after Google security researcher Adrienne Porter Felt posted a screenshot of the phoney certificate to Twitter.

    Gogo Serving Fake SSL Certificates to Block Streaming Sites

    Mile-high Web provider Gogo appears to be running man-in-the-middle attacks on its own customers.

    Based on a report by Google engineer Adrienne Porter Felt, Gogo Inflight Internet is serving SSL certificates from Gogo instead of site providers—a big no-no in online security.

    The move could mean that passwords and other sensitive information entered while logged into the Gogo service could have been compromised.

    A member of the Google Chrome security team, Porter Felt last week tweeted a screenshot of her computer during a flight.

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nick Bilton / New York Times:
    In-flight Wi-Fi is getting slower, less reliable, and more expensive as demand increases

    The Sorry State of In-Flight Wi-Fi

    35,000 FEET, SOMEWHERE OVER THE MIDWEST — I’ve finally found something on commercial flights that’s worse than airplane food: the Wi-Fi. It’s so slow and unreliable that it shouldn’t be allowed to call itself “Wi-Fi.” Renaming it Airplane Dial-Up would be unfair to dial-up.

    In-flight Wi-Fi wasn’t always this pathetic. When the service was introduced in the United States in 2008, it was seen as a miracle more impressive than turning water into wine.

    People marveled at how they could access Twitter, TMZ and email in the tropopause, making business travelers more productive and helping children fend off boredom. (I was a little upset when the Nobel Peace Prize went to President Obama and not the engineers who figured out how to get Wi-Fi into the sky.)

    But here’s my main issue with Slow-Fi: Airlines and in-flight operators charge a fortune to use it. If you’re going to offer a service that barely works, shouldn’t it be priced accordingly? Perhaps free with a small bag of peanuts.

    But Virgin America is charging me $34 for Wi-Fi, which is more expensive than an entire month of unlimited data on my cellphone, which is $30.

    This wasn’t always the case.

    Some airlines have started to add faster Internet that taps into satellite connections while also offering some freebies.

    Wi-Fi providers like Gogo, which works with Virgin America, Delta and American Airlines, say that Internet speeds have gone down because of growing demand.

    Mr. Chari said that almost two million passengers a month now connect to Gogo’s wireless network in the air. “Any given flight from Boston to Los Angeles will have 70 users,” he said.
    Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
    Continue reading the main story

    No wonder things are so bad. That would be like inviting 70 friends to your house with their laptops, smartphones and tablets, and spending an afternoon sharing a single broadband connection.

    But if we do the math, something doesn’t seem to add up. Sure, the airlines and some Wi-Fi providers are now raking in profits: Not only has the number of Wi-Fi customers grown drastically, but so has the price (in some cases more than double). Passengers, however, are paying more for a slower service.

    There may be a silver lining in that wireless cloud. Gogo plans to offer a new Wi-Fi service on select flights this year, 2Ku, which is satellite-based and upward of 22 times faster than the company’s current air-to-ground technology in some planes.

    But before you get too excited, 2Ku won’t be available on most flights until 2016.

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Here is how new digital technology disrupts old businesses in indirect way:

    In-flight catalog SkyMall files for bankruptcy

    As a result of evolving airline rules that allow passengers to keep their smartphones and tablets powered on during flights, the popularity of the in-flight catalog SkyMall has declined.

    The Federal Aviation Administration ruled Oct. 2013 to permit the use of portable electronic devices for the duration of flights, though mobile phones are not allowed to connect to cellular networks. SkyMall suggests that this change largely contributed to their need to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

    SkyMall files for bankruptcy, but ‘hopeful’ iconic catalog will survive

    Next time you’re on a plane, it’s possible you’ll no longer have the iconic SkyMall magazine as reading material. The parent company behind the whimsical, wonderfully weird catalog — a mainstay in the seat-back pocket of commercial flights for decades — has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As part of the process (and if a bankruptcy court grants approval), Xhibit Corp will do its best to find a buyer for SkyMall. “We are extremely disappointed in this result and are hopeful that SkyMall and the iconic ‘SkyMall’ brand find a home to continue to operate as SkyMall has for the last 25 years,” said Scott Wiley, the company’s acting CEO.

    Launched in 1989, SkyMall saw a rise that eventually resulted in 650 million passengers thumbing through its catalog each year, according to The Atlantic. (In 2013, The Atlantic suggested that the merger between SkyMall and Xhibit spelled serious trouble.)

    “With the increased use of electronic devices on planes, fewer people browsed the SkyMall in-flight catalog,”

  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Owen Williams / The Next Web:
    Samsung’s Gear VR will provide in-flight entertainment for first-class Qantas passengers

  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Owen Williams / The Next Web:
    Samsung’s Gear VR will provide in-flight entertainment for first-class Qantas passengers

    A limited number of Gear VR devices will be available to passengers on select Qantas’ A380 flights and inside the First Class Lounge in Sydney to try, alongside a specially developed Qantas app running on the Note 4 inside the device.

  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Saudia offers the first and business class passengers on international routes access code for the machine free of charge WLAN network. Code may be, when you scan the ticket barcode on your smartphone. Code can log in directly to the aircraft wifi portal.

    Currently Saudia application is in Apple’s App Store. The Android version is coming soon.

    According to Saudia communications the Saudi Arabians are the Middle East’s most avid users of the Internet. The smartphone is already in the country, 72.8 per cent of the population, which is the third largest in the world.

    Last year, Saudia flights, free Wi-Fi was used by 35 000 passengers. The number is expected to grow by means of a new application quickly.

    Source: http://www.etn.fi/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2360:lentolipulla-kiinni-wifiin&catid=13&Itemid=101

  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    1 in 3 Airline Boarding Passes to be Issued via Mobile Devices by 2019

    Hampshire, UK – 11th March 2014: New research from leading analysts, Juniper Research, finds that over 1.5 billion boarding passes will be delivered via mobile by 2019, compared to approximately 745 million boarding passes estimated to be delivered this year. This means that mobile boarding passes will represent 1 in 3 boarding passes issued by airlines at the end of 2019.

    It notes that mobile boarding passes are increasingly used by frequent flyers, but less used by leisure passengers who are less likely to be familiar with the technology. According to SITA, the airline IT specialist, 53% of airlines have already implemented mobile boarding passes via apps which is expected to rise to 91% by 2017.

    The new research, Mobile & Online Ticketing: Transport, Events & NFC 2015-2019 found that the majority of airlines have implemented boarding passes via apps, and the industry is witnessing rapid adoption in markets such as the US, Far East and Europe. Some of the early adopting airlines are recording double-digit growth for boarding passes delivered via mobile.

    However, the success of mobile barcode boarding pass adoption has meant that the transition to NFC will be delayed.


  27. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Ground control: Analysts warn airplane communications systems vulnerable to hacking

    Commercial and even military planes have an Achilles heel that could leave them vulnerable to hackers on the ground, who experts say could conceivably commandeer cockpits and create chaos in the skies.

    For now, terrorist groups are believed to lack the sophistication to bring down a plane remotely, but it is their limitations, and not aviation safeguards, that are keeping the flying public safe, according to security analysts. The flaw lies in the entertainment and satellite communications systems, according to Chris Roberts, founder of OneWorldLabs, a Colorado based cyber security intelligence firm that consults with government agencies, businesses, and nonprofits.

    While commercial planes are potential targets, business, private and military aircraft also are at risk, according to another aviation security analyst who shared his findings with FoxNews.com.

    “I discovered a backdoor that allowed me to gain privileged access to the Satellite Data Unit, the most important piece of SATCOM (Satellite communications) equipment on aircraft,” said Ruben Santamarta, principal security consultant for IOActive. “These vulnerabilities allowed unauthenticated users to hack into the SATCOM equipment when it is accessible through WiFi or In-Flight entertainment networks.”

    There are “multiple high risk vulnerabilities” such as weak encryption algorithms or insecure protocols in SATCOM technologies manufactured by some of the world’s largest

    “These vulnerabilities have the potential to allow a malicious actor to intercept, manipulate or block communications, and in some cases, to remotely take control of the physical device,”

    Four months after Santamarta presented his research, several international aviation organizations signed “The Civil Aviation Cyber Security Action Plan,” a pact aimed at boosting cooperation among the normally competitive industry leaders to improve their cyber security capabilities.

    There was a “disturbing” report back in December of “Operation Cleaver,” an apparent Iranian cyber espionage campaign that aimed to find cyber-enabled ways of bypassing airport physical security, Harrison said.

    “While there don’t appear to have been any actual attacks accomplished this way, Operation Cleaver appears to offer a disturbingly modern cyber alternative to hiding bombs in body cavities,” Harrison said.

    He believes if there was a cyber attack on a plane, it could be stopped midair.

    “I suspect flight crews have an ability to recover from a hack in a variety of ways,” Harrison said. “While computers do a tremendous amount of the flying in modern aviation, humans are still capable of controlling aircraft if the technology fails or is disrupted.”

  28. Tomi Engdahl says:

    US government report: planes with avionics and passengers on same network could theoretically be vulnerable to hackers

    GAO: Newer aircraft vulnerable to hacking

    Washington (CNN)Hundreds of planes flying commercially today could be vulnerable to having their onboard computers hacked and remotely taken over by someone using the plane’s passenger Wi-Fi network, or even by someone on the ground, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

    One of the authors of the report, Gerald Dillingham, told CNN the planes include the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A350 and A380 aircraft, and all have advanced cockpits that are wired into the same Wi-Fi system used by passengers.

    “Modern communications technologies, including IP connectivity, are increasingly used in aircraft systems, creating the possibility that unauthorized individuals might access and compromise aircraft avionics systems,” according to the report, which is based on interviews with cybersecurity and aviation experts.

    The government investigators who wrote the report say it is theoretically possible for someone with just a laptop to:

    – Commandeer the aircraft

    – Put a virus into flight control computers

    – Jeopardize the safety of the flight by taking control of computers

    – Take over the warning systems or even navigation systems

    Dillingham says although modern aircraft could be vulnerable, there are a number of redundancy mechanisms built into the plane systems that could allow a pilot to correct a problem.​

    The report explains that as the air traffic control system is upgraded to use Internet-based technology on both the ground and in planes, avionics could be compromised. Older planes systems aren’t highly Internet-based, so the risk for aircraft 20 years and older is less.​

    Commercial pilot John Barton told CNN, “We’ve had hackers get into the Pentagon, so getting into an airplane computer system I would think is probably quite easy at this point.”

    Experts told investigators, “If the cabin systems connect to the cockpit avionics systems and use the same networking platform, in this case IP, a user could subvert the firewall and access the cockpit avionics system from the cabin.”

    He says that the Federal Aviation Administration “must focus on aircraft certification standards that would prevent a terrorist with a laptop in the cabin or on the ground from taking control of an airplane through the passenger Wi-Fi system. That’s a serious vulnerability.”

    Washington went on to say “It is also important to note that the FAA had already initiated a comprehensive program to improve the cybersecurity defenses of the NAS (National Airspace System) infrastructure, as well as other FAA mission-critical systems. We are significantly increasing our collaboration and coordination with cyber intelligence and security organizations across the federal government and in the private sector.”

    “The Dreamliner and the A350 were actually designed to have the technology in it going forward to be able to have remote control intervention between the pilot and the ground or if an emergency were to happen in the air,” Barton said. But he quickly added, “It’s going to take a long time before we get to the point where that technology is safe and secure.”

    Boeing said it is committed to designing secure aircraft.

    “Boeing airplanes have more than one navigational system available to pilots,”

  29. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Federal investigators say in-flight Wi-Fi could be hacked to access planes’ flight controls

    The BBC’s US & Canada News site is reporting that “a federal watchdog agency has warned [that] wireless systems used by passengers on planes in the US could be hacked to access flight controls.”

    “A report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) said it is one of several emerging security threats not being dealt with properly, [which] comes as air traffic control is modernized to use satellite technology,” states the BBC’s report.

    The reporting adds: “GAO investigators spoke to cyber security experts who said onboard firewalls intended to protect avionics from hackers could be breached if flight control and entertainment systems use the same wiring and routers. One expert told investigators ‘a virus or malware’ planted on websites visited by passengers could provide an opportunity for a malicious attack.”

  30. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Hackers can hit airplane navigation systems (video)

  31. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Adam Pasick / Quartz:
    Software issue on American Airlines’ iPads, used to distribute flight plans and other information to flight crews, forces airline to ground select flights

    Several dozen American Airlines planes are grounded because the pilots’ iPads crashed

    American Airlines flights experienced significant delays this evening after pilots’ iPads—which the airline uses to distribute flight plans and other information to the crew—abruptly crashed. “Several dozen” flights were affected by the outage, according to a spokesperson for the airline.

    “The pilot told us when they were getting ready to take off, the iPad screens went blank, both for the captain and copilot, so they didn’t have the flight plan,” Toni Jacaruso, a passenger on American flight #1654 from Dallas to Austin, told Quartz.

    American switched its pilots to an iPad-based “electronic flight bag” in 2013, replacing the heavy paper-based reference materials that pilots carried previously. American said the change would reduce the frequent injuries incurred by pilots from carrying heavy flight bags, and would also save time by making revisions electronically.

    The software and data that powers American’s iPad-based flight kits are provided by Jeppesen, a unit of Boeing Digital Aviation.

  32. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Debate Settled: Flying Is Way More Efficient Than Driving

    Here in the US, traveling by car uses more than twice the energy you need to fly.

    That’s according to a study by Michael Sivak at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. The numbers are based on how many BTUs (British thermal unit, equal to 1,055 joules) are needed to move one person one mile. In 1970, flying was twice as energy intensive as driving, but that has reversed. In 2012, the most recent year counted, driving one person one mile took 4,211 BTUs, while flying required just 2,033.

    The numbers for driving are based on the average fuel economy of all light-duty vehicles (that’s passenger cars, SUVs, pickups, and vans, which averaged 21.6 mpg), using data from the US DOT.

    While cars have gotten more efficient in recent years, the aviation industry has made tremendous progress on cutting down fuel use.

    If you feel bad about driving when you could be flying, there’s good news: Any car that gets more than 44.7 mpg beats the plane.

    There’s another way to match the efficiency of flying while on the ground: Ride with passengers.

  33. Tomi Engdahl says:

    World-First Remote Air Traffic Control System Lands In Sweden

    Small airports are often in a no-win situation. They don’t have much traffic because they don’t have an adequate tower system, and they don’t have an adequate tower system because they don’t have much traffic.

    Remote Tower Services (RTS) system, the first plane landed last week at Örnsköldsvik Airport, but it was controlled from the LFV Remote Tower Centre 123 km (76 mi) away in Sundsvall

    World-first remote air traffic control system lands in Sweden

    Small airports are often in a no-win situation. They don’t have much traffic because they don’t have an adequate tower system, and they don’t have an adequate tower system because they don’t have much traffic. That could be about to change, with the opening of the world’s first remotely operated air-traffic control system in Sweden. Thanks to the Remote Tower Services (RTS) system, the first plane landed last week at Örnsköldsvik Airport, but it was controlled from the LFV Remote Tower Centre 123 km (76 mi) away in Sundsvall.

    The result of ten years development by the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration (LFV) and Saab, the RTS system was approved for operation last year by the Swedish Transport Agency. It uses a system of cameras and sensors that beam data to a remote control facility in real time, where it is displayed on monitor screens and air traffic controllers operate normally – as if they were at the field in a conventional tower.

    According to the developers, RTS can control several airports or supplement large ones; operate on demand, at flexible hours, or around the clock.

  34. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Kim Zetter / Wired:
    United Airlines offers hackers up to 1M mileage points to find vulnerabilities in its sites, apps, and online portals, but excludes testing of inflight systems

    United Will Reward People Who Flag Security Flaws—Sort Of

    United Airlines announced this week that it’s launching a bug bounty program inviting researchers to report bugs in its websites, apps and online portals.

    The announcement comes weeks after the airline kicked a security researcher off of one of its flights for tweeting about vulnerabilities in the Wi-Fi and entertainment networks of certain models of United planes made by Boeing and Airbus.

    It’s believed to be the first bounty program offered by an airline. But curiously, United’s announcement doesn’t invite researchers to submit the most crucial vulnerabilities researchers could find—those discovered in onboard computer networks, such as the Wi-Fi and entertainment systems. In fact, the bounty program specifically excludes “bugs on onboard Wi-Fi, entertainment systems or avionics” and United notes that “[a]ny testing on aircraft or aircraft systems such as inflight entertainment or inflight Wi-Fi” could result in a criminal investigation.

  35. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Graham Cluley:
    What we know so far on the story of the alleged in-flight system hacker Chris Roberts

    Security researcher ‘hijacked plane in-flight’: questions and (some) answers

    What’s all the fuss about?
    Well, at the end of last week, Wired published an extraordinary story: “Feds Say That Banned Researcher Commandeered a Plane”

    Haven’t I heard of this security researcher before?
    Quite possibly.

    So now, Chris Roberts is saying that he actually commandeered a plane in-flight through hacking?
    Not quite.
    The report by Wired journalist Kim Zetter says that an FBI search warrant claims that the security researcher had confirmed during conversation that he identified vulnerabilities in aircraft in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems that we was keen for airlines to fix.

    Still, even if the full facts aren’t yet known, it sounds serious. Interfering with the actual flight… that would be insane, wouldn’t it?
    Or at least plane stupid.
    That part of the search warrant at least creates some ambiguity, and could be read as tying in with Roberts’ claims to Wired that any meddling with avionics systems took place in simulated systems on a virtual environment, rather than directly to the in-flight plane.
    If that were true, Roberts might have accessed the plane’s systems and data without permission, but perhaps never sent the real live system any commands to mess with the aircraft’s journey.

    So, what now?
    No doubt some of the hysteria in the mainstream press will continue to bubble away about hackers hijacking aircraft will continue, even though we don’t know what actually happened.

  36. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Airline Chief Casts Doubt on Plane Hacking Claim

    The chief executive of United Airlines cast doubt Tuesday on claims by a security researcher about hacking the controls of a jetliner from its entertainment system.

    “There are clear firewalls between a Wi-Fi system and any kind of control,” United president and CEO Jeff Smisek told a US Senate hearing.

    Smisek said however the matter was “of great concern to us” and that the carrier was cooperating with an FBI investigation into the matter.

    A story circulating in security circles in recent days is based on a claim by researcher Chris Roberts of One World Labs that he briefly took control of a United aircraft from his passenger seat by hacking into the in-flight entertainment network.

    Smisek told the Senate panel of the alleged hacking, “We are unaware of whether or not this is possible (but) the original equipment manufacturers, from at least what I understand, have stated this is not possible today.”

    In-flight cybersecurity is “an increasingly important issue” that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is just starting to address in earnest, said the audit and investigative arm of the US Congress.

    “We’re working closely with the manufacturers to understand how the threat”

  37. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Is It Possible for Passengers to Hack Commercial Aircraft?

    When security researcher Chris Roberts was removed from a United fight last month after tweeting a joke about hacking the plane’s inflight entertainment system, the security community was aghast at the FBI’s over-reaction and United’s decision to ban him from a subsequent flight.

    But with publication of an FBI affidavit this month asserting that Roberts admitted to hacking a plane inflight, causing it to veer slightly off course, reaction in the community swiftly shifted. Wrath that had been directed at the FBI was now directed at Roberts.

    How could a professional security researcher put passengers at risk by doing a live and unauthorized pen-test of a plane’s network while in the air?

    “While these systems receive [plane] position data and have communication links, the design isolates them from the other systems on airplanes performing critical and essential functions,” Boeing said in a statement.

    The statement seemed a contradiction in terms, though. Were the avionics and infotainment networks connected by communication links or were they isolated? And if connected, how could Boeing be certain a hacker couldn’t leap from the entertainment system to the avionics system and manipulate controls? After all, a report released last month by the Government Accountability Office raised this very concern, as did an FAA document issued to Boeing in 2008.

    According to the affidavit, Roberts was able to issue a “climb command”, which “caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane.”

    Whether it’s possible to create this condition by issuing a command from a passenger seat is a different matter, however. Soucie and others who WIRED spoke to agree with Boeing that this isn’t possible. But unlike Boeing, they provided clearer details explaining why.

    “The auto-throttle wants to keep the engines together. It does not want to split the engines,” he says. “The only command [available] is to drive them together, not to drive them apart.”

    The only way someone could hack the system to throttle one engine would be if they were able to gain access to the box housing the system and reprogram the software for the throttles. “But you can’t just reprogram a box. There are all sorts of interlocks to make sure that software can’t change inflight,”

    Soif Roberts wasn’t able to alter the thrust of an engine, would he have at least been able to access the avionics system to do other things? Soucie and Lemme say no.

    In-Flight Entertainment Systems

    According to the FBI affidavit, Roberts got access to the thrust-management system through the in-flight entertainment system. The affidavit indicates that he found vulnerabilities in two models of IFE made by Panasonic and Thales, a French electronics firm that makes a variety of components and security products for the defense and aerospace industries and others.

    On at least 15 different flights, Roberts evidently compromised IFE systems by obtaining physical access through the Seat Electronic Box, or SEB, installed beneath passenger seats. After removing the cover to the SEB by “wiggling and Squeezing the box,” the affidavit says Roberts took a Cat6 ethernet cable with a modified plug on the end and attached it to the box and his laptop.

    A connection between the avionics system and the IFE does exist. But there’s a caveat.

    Soucie and Lemme say the connection allows for one-way data communication only. The systems are connected through an ARINC 429 data bus that feeds information from the avionics to the IFE about the plane’s latitude, longitude and speed.

    “On every airplane it’s done a little differently and is done in a proprietary way,” Lemme says. But in each case, the ARINC 429 is an output-only hub that allows data to flow out from the avionics system but not back to it, he says.

    But WIRED was able to find a document online (.pdf), which indicates that Boeing’s line of 777 planes use ARINC 629 buses. These buses are designed for two-way communication.

    It’s unclear, however, if these are used only for communication between critical components within the avionics system, or if they are also used for communication between the avionics and non-critical systems like the IFE. Boeing did not respond to a request for comment.

    “The data exchanges are pre-programmed as a part of their system requirements—each transmitter and receiver is programmed for specific data to be provided at a specific rate,” Lemme says.”Each receiver is checking that the data is being received when it should be received, and that it is receiving valid data.”

    The big question in this case would be whether the restrictions programmed into the avionics software were properly coded to reject the communication.

    “People suggest that it’s possible there’s unintended ways of using that interface if it wasn’t [implemented] 100 percent [correctly] and they left some gaps. But I don’t believe these gaps exist,”

    Lemme says there may be some aircraft that now use ethernet connections in place of ARINC 429 buses to transmit data from the avionics to the entertainment system. But in a design like that, he says, there would be a box sitting between the avionics system and the in-flight system to securely convey information to the latter without allowing a connection back to the avionics from the IFE.

    During an interview with WIRED in April, Roberts said he found vulnerabilities that allowed him to jump from the satellite communication system (SATCOM) to the inflight entertainment and cabin-management systems.

    The FBI affidavit doesn’t address the SATCOM system, but Lemme says Roberts would not be able to access the avionics in this way, either.

    A Teller of Tales?

    All of this appears to add up to the conclusion that there’s no way Roberts could have hacked the thrust controls of a plane and manipulated the aircraft, either through the IEF, the SATCOM or anything else. But then how to explain the FBI affidavit?

    Roberts told WIRED after the affidavit came out that the FBI took what he said out of context

  38. Rusty solomon says:

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    geographic. I followed Werner down the road, got past the rise, and flashed my lights at him.
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  39. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Kevin Fitchard / Fortune:
    The economics of inflight Wi-Fi: why prices and speeds vary so widely — The crazy economics of inflight Wi-Fi

    The crazy economics of inflight Wi-Fi

    In the crazy world of airlines, passengers are often forced to pay a lot for slow speeds.

    It’s summer time, and that means millions of Americans will soon make their way to airports across the country. An amenity featured on more and more flights these days is Internet access delivered directly to your laptop, tablet or smartphone via onboard Wi-Fi hotspot. But, depending on what airline you take your Internet experience could vastly differ.

    The inflight Internet market in the U.S. doesn’t seem to follow any basic rule of competition. On an American or Delta plane you could wind up paying $10 to $20 to surf for the duration of your flight, and “surf” might be a generous word in this case. If there are a lot of other people using the same network on your plane, speeds might be so slow you’ll wind up paddling your way through the web.

    At the other end of the spectrum, JetBlue offers complementary Internet access to all of its passengers. Instead of delivering a sluggish Internet experience, its Fly-Fi service is the fastest in the biz delivering speeds over 10 Mbps, and doesn’t restrict high-bandwidth applications like Netflix on its networks.

    Why is there such a huge discrepancy in pricing and speeds? It’s a combination of business model and technology

    the main reason you might find yourself paying more for less on board some flights has to do with how inflight Internet fits into your airline’s overall business plan

    For most major airlines, Internet is a revenue generator. For instance, the biggest player in onboard Wi-Fi, Gogo, has built its business on the idea that business travelers will pay almost any price to work above the clouds, because ultimately they’re not footing the bill—their employers are.

    Typically, only 7% of passengers opt to pay for Internet on Gogo flights, but that’s enough for Gogo to cover its costs and send a big check to its airline partners each month.

    On the flip side, smaller airlines look at inflight Internet as a differentiating service, the same way they might treat checked-bag fees.

    JetBlue claims that more than 40% of its passengers connect to the free network each flight.

    While the airline business model usually determines price, the actual speeds you see are determined by the type of network they connect to. Airplanes get their Internet connections either from above (linking to satellites in orbit) or from below (linking to ground-based cell towers). Depending on the technology used, and the types of antennas in the aircraft, those networks can support connections anywhere from 3 Mbps to 70 Mbps. But, keep in mind that’s shared capacity.

    Gogo relies primarily on its air-to-ground network
    Depending on the equipment in the aircraft, Gogo can support connections of 3.1 Mbps to 9.8 Mbps.

    Gogo has also begun using satellite technology on some flights—which can deliver anywhere from 40 Mbps to 70 Mbps—but unlike the air-to-ground systems, the satellite network spreads that capacity over a very large geographic area.

    Row 44 powers Southwest inflight Internet using Ku-band satellites, which can support up to 40 Mbps connection to a plane.

    ViaSat. Four years ago ViaSat-1 went into geostationary orbit, putting all other broadband satellites to shame with 140 Gbps of total capacity. This is the Ka-band satellite that JetBlue’s fleet connects to, and while the airline has to share that bandwidth with homes across of North America

    Paying a lot of money clearly doesn’t guarantee you a good Wi-Fi connection in the skies.

  40. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Hacker Airlines: United Awards 1M Air Miles For Vulnerability

    We’re really happy to see companies getting serious about rewarding white hat hackers. The latest example of this is when [Jordan Wiens] submitted two bugs and was awarded 1,000,000 Sky Miles on United Airlines.

    The bounty is so high because he uncovered a method of remote code execution which United has since patched. Unfortunately, United requires bug secrecy so we’re not getting any of the gritty details like we have for some of the recently discovered Facebook vulnerabilities. That’s really too bad because sharing the knowledge about what went wrong helps programmers learn to avoid it in the future. But we still give United a big nod for making this kind of work and responsible reporting worthwhile.

  41. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Wi-Fi in the sky

    Back at the end of 2013, I wrote about my mostly-positive experiences with the pervasive network connectivity provided by Southwest Airlines (In-Flight Wi-Fi) and Comcast (Xfinity Wi-Fi) services. On a recent flight from San Jose to San Diego, however, the Southwest In-Flight Wi-Fi bandwidth and latency were so bad as to render the service essentially unusable (to the airline’s credit, they promptly refunded my money after I sent them a post-flight complaint).

    My connectivity troubles didn’t dissipate once I got to San Diego.

    Sometimes I couldn’t connect to the router at all. Other times, it wouldn’t give me a DHCP IP address assignment. If I waited a few minutes, I could usually get back online again … but only after watching another ad first … and once again only for a few seconds-to-minutes.

    Connectivity didn’t get any better once we got to the hotel. When its router was “up,” both it and the broadband connection feeding it were speedy and responsive. But it unfortunately wasn’t “up” very much;

    All hasn’t been bad in the airport world of late. Free Wi-Fi at both Reno and San Jose Airports was problem-free; I didn’t even need to watch an ad or otherwise log in first in order to use it. But fast food restaurants were hit-and-miss

    The fundamental problem here is that broadband service was offered and in fact aggressively promoted by each merchant. Had Wi-Fi not been available, I would have figured out some other way to get online, or done without Internet access. But since it was offered, I counted on it, and its unreliability was all the more frustrating as a result. The lesson is the same here as it is with any other technology product: it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than the converse.

  42. Tomi Engdahl says:

    70Mbps Gogo in-flight internet approved by FAA

    You may remember that Gogo shared some good news in April last year: its in-flight internet service was set to be upgraded from 9.8Mbps to 70Mbps. That’s all thanks to a much improved satellite antenna fitted in planes called 2Ku.

    The upgraded system was meant to be streaming content on planes by now, but the FAA has only this week issued the final Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) required to use it. So, 70Mbps internet is coming to Gogo flights, it’s just going to take a bit longer than we (and Gogo) originally thought.

    The plan now is to start installing the new antennas later this year and then switching on 2Ku access from early 2016.

    2Ku is future-proofed to work with new spot beam satellites, which will see the connection speed increase again from 70Mbps to 100Mbps.

    With that connection being shared across an entire aircraft full of people

  43. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Gogo gets FAA approval for 70 Mbps in-flight Wi-Fi service, but most rollouts coming in 2016

    Gogo, the in-flight Wi-Fi provider, said that the Federal Aviation Administration has given final approval for a new technology that the company claims will provide a 20x increase in bandwidth over its existing Air to Ground solution, bringing 70 Mbps connections to plane. However, most airlines that are adopting the new technology won’t be updating their planes with new equipment to support the service until next year.

    The technology is currently installed on Gogo’s 737-500 test plane and is now cleared for in-flight testing

    Gogo said that seven commercial airlines have signed up for either a trial or fleet deployment of 2Ku covering a fleet of more than 500 commercial planes. Gogo said it expects to launch commercial service later this year “and begin rapid installation of the backlog of 500 aircraft in 2016.”

    Delta is the main U.S. airline that has promised to use the new technology, though United is also adding it to five planes, according to Re/code. Latin American airline company GOL said it will install Gogo’s 2Ku services, including the company’s new IPTV solution — Gogo TV — on all its 140 aircraft.

    Gogo’s ATG in-flight Internet service launched almost 10 years ago in the 800 MHz band using Qualcomm’s EV-DO technology. ATG uses 3 MHz of spectrum and delivers fairly slow speeds of 1-3 Mbps.

    As Re/code notes, Gogo has been managing the large demand for its limited bandwidth by raising prices and sometimes charges up to $30 for a cross-country flight if users sign up on the plane. However, customers can get that for half the price if they purchase a day pass before taking off.

    Gogo’s new technology could make it possible to access streaming video services — or, at the very least, make the in-flight Wi-Fi experience more tolerable.

  44. Tomi Engdahl says:

    GoGo Starts Testing New In-Flight Internet Technology

    GoGo, the largest provider of Internet above 30,000 feet, has announced they are now testing their next generation of in-flight Internet.

    Of special interest in the new 2Ku system is the antennas strapped to the top of a GoGo-equipped plane’s fuselage. These antennas form a mechanically-phased-array that are more efficient than previous antennas and can provide more bandwidth for frequent fliers demanding better and faster Internet.
    The Antenna Pod
    The Antenna Pod

    Currently, GoGo in-flight wireless uses terrestrial radio to bring the Internet up to 35,000 feet. Anyone who has flown recently will tell you this is okay, but you won’t be binging on Nexflix for your next cross country flight.

    Because the 2Ku system provides Internet over a satellite connection, ping times will significantly increase. The satellites GoGo is using orbit at 22,000 miles above Earth, or about 0.1 light seconds away from the plane. Double that, and your ping times will increase by at least 200ms compared to a terrestrial radio connection.

  45. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Sam Grobart / Bloomberg Business:
    How price-insensitive customers and lack of options allowed Gogo to thrive as a business despite deteriorating data speeds and increasing fees — Why Gogo’s Infuriatingly Expensive, Slow Internet Still Owns the Skies — In the fall of 2008, Louis C.K. was a guest on Late Night …

    Why Gogo’s Infuriatingly Expensive, Slow Internet Still Owns the Skies
    “You’re Now Free to Complain About the Wi-Fi”

    Since pioneering the in-flight Internet business, Gogo has dominated, commanding about 80 percent of the market. And as often happens with near monopolies, Gogo has become a name people love to hate. “So, Gogo is officially a joke at this point, right?” is the title of a well-commented-on thread on the road warrior site FlyerTalk. “They’ve got a monopoly, and they just don’t care,” says pharmaceutical executive and frequent flyer Keith Lockwood. “Once you have it, it’s hard not to have it.”

    Gogo hasn’t done itself any favors. Steadily increasing fees and deteriorating data speeds have further annoyed already cranky flyers. “The service is so unreliable at this point that I don’t get a good enough ROI to spend $60 a month to maybe be able to download my e-mails,” says health-care executive and former Gogo user Manuel Hernandez.

    For years, customer perceptions that Gogo is basically Comcast at 35,000 feet didn’t hurt the company’s bottom line. Users were literally a captive audience, and if they didn’t like the service, too bad, read a book.

    In the late 1990s, Boeing began building a satellite network called Connexion that would provide Internet access on planes. The technology worked; people who tried it loved it; but Wi-Fi, even home Wi-Fi, was new and there wasn’t enough demand. Flights were still mostly downtime for business travelers—a few precious hours of unreachability. So the service muddled along, there for the taking but mostly unwanted, like a seat-pocket copy of SkyMall. Then came the airline industry collapse following Sept. 11. Boeing shut Connexion down in 2006.

    Gogo, which started that same year, had much better timing. It’s spent almost $1 billion developing onboard equipment and a network of transmission towers across North America. Back then, travelers in business class who needed to work used laptops or occasionally BlackBerrys or Palm Treos. A year later the iPhone arrived, and data-hungry smartphones soon became more or less a human appendage.

    By 2008 it was clear that any airline worth its wings needed to offer some kind of in-flight connectivity, fast. Gogo had the cell towers and the FAA-approved onboard antennas and servers to make it happen. “Airlines didn’t want to do this organically,” says industry analyst George Hamlin. “Here comes somebody with a system in place, and you had to have it or people would leave.”

    But demand for in-flight wireless has far outpaced capacity. Gogo’s CEO isn’t ignorant of customer dissatisfaction. “One of the reasons we get a bad rap out there sometimes is people compare what we do in the sky to the ground and just wonder why isn’t it the same,” Small says.

    What Gogo does in the sky is, indeed, different from what wireless companies do on terra firma. It uses an air-to-ground system that functions similarly to traditional cell service, but its radio towers point up, not down. Gogo’s towers are anywhere from 50 to 200 feet tall and can be located in rather remote locations, such as atop peaks in the Rocky Mountains or deep in the Alaskan tundra. The tower signal is received by a device on the plane’s belly

    The signal is routed to an onboard server about the size of an old-fashioned tower PC and then continues to the cabin.

    Gogo has to design much of its hardware. “The scale is low,” Small says. “There are only 40,000 planes in the whole world.” That means there isn’t a constellation of Lucents and Huaweis churning out new and improved airborne wireless equipment. “There is nothing off-the-shelf. Everything is custom,” says Anand Chari, Gogo’s chief technology officer. “People have made either hundreds, or at most a few thousand, of those, and that’s it.”

    Gogo can provide a plane with as much as 10 megabits per second of connectivity, which is about half the average download speed on Verizon’s 4G network. Only one-third of Gogo-equipped planes, however, have the hardware to reach even that speed. The rest top out at 3 Mbps. And the signal is shared among all the passengers, so the more people using it, the more bogged down the service gets.

    To balance this demand-speed trade-off, the company has focused on what consultants and B-school professors call price optimization.

    From its Chicago headquarters, Gogo is constantly analyzing usage—how many passengers are logged on and how much data they’re consuming—to come up with dynamic pricing that acts as a kind of capacity regulator.

    The practice is like the surge pricing used by Uber. It may make perfect logical sense—varying the price of a scarce resource according to demand—but it hardly wins the hearts and minds of noneconomists.

    Gogo has gotten away with these pricing games, because its main demographic, business travelers, are so price-insensitive. For them, staying connected is a necessity, not a luxury, and they tend to be on expense accounts, so it’s someone else’s dime. Also, these passengers are usually not bandwidth hogs. “The business traveler is working on a PowerPoint or a spreadsheet locally and sending e-mails,” says analyst Tim Farrar of TMF Associates, a consulting and research firm that focuses on mobile data services. “He’s not using it as intensively as a leisure traveler who wants to surf the Internet.”

    Only 7 percent of passengers on an average flight use Gogo, according to the company. That’s still too many if you’re a user with a corporate American Express card and some Google Docs to work on. In a perverse logic, these customers would actually be better served if Gogo cost more, driving out the teenagers in Row 37 posting selfies on Instagram.

    Earlier this year the company raised the price of its all-airline monthly pass from $45 to $60.

    “There really isn’t much limit to what people are willing to pay if they have to get work done on the plane”

    While Gogo manages demand, it’s working on supply, too. Toward the end of this year, the company plans to roll out its 2Ku satellite-based service. The network will reach about 70 Mbps per plane at the outset and possibly be as fast as 100 Mbps in the near future. It will also be available over oceans and wherever else Gogo can’t put towers, which means the company will be able to go after intercontinental routes.

    Gogo’s two main competitors, ViaSat and GEE, use satellites exclusively for customers such as JetBlue and Southwest. Both services have faster connections and lower prices, yet neither has dented Gogo’s dominance. That’s mainly because Gogo did a good job early on of locking up airlines into decade-long contracts. Gogo will install and maintain the equipment across a fleet for 10 years and share the Wi-Fi fees with the airline. As soon as the contracts are signed, hardware lock-in takes hold. Gogo (and ViaSat and GEE) equipment is proprietary, so switching providers means switching servers and antennas and everything else. Once something is installed on the plane, it’s very hard to change it out,”

    ViaSat and GEE haven’t only been different from Gogo technologically but also in how they sell their services. Gogo charges passengers directly and then cuts a check to the airline for about 20 percent of that revenue. With ViaSat and GEE, the airline writes them a check for their service, the same way it may pay a caterer for food or a fuel company for tanker trucks of Jet A. Once the in-flight Internet is up and running, it’s the airline’s decision what to charge, if anything.

    What it comes down to is whether an airline views Wi-Fi as a source of revenue or as a perk. It’s not a purely philosophical choice. “I think there are some airlines that can’t afford to invest significant amounts, and therefore they like getting a check every month from Gogo,” Farrar says. “Remember,” he adds, “this is an industry that can’t afford to give too many bags of peanuts away or full cans of Coke.”

  46. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom join forces for aircraft broadband

    Fast 4G internet connections are coming to airline passengers in Europe and beyond

    Inmarsat, the FTSE 100 satellite company, and Deutsche Telekom on Monday announced a partnership they say will allow millions of European airline passengers to use their smartphones and other devices in the air as they do on the ground.

    The partnership will pool Inmarsat’s European satellite and Deutsche Telekom’s network to provide coverage throughout the EU’s 28 member states.

    The satellite group says the speeds offered by its partnership with Deutsche Telekom will be far faster than those provided by Gogo,

    Panasonic offers what it labels “the only global, broadband in-flight connectivity service available in the world today”,

  47. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Daniel Dombey / Financial Times:
    Inmarsat, Deutsche Telekom, and Lufthansa to launch fast in-flight Wi-Fi service in EU in 2017


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