In-flight entertainment was very different when commercial flight first became popular. For example, in 1936, the Hindenburg aircraft offered a piano, lounge, dining room, smoking room, and a bar. Shortly thereafter, airlines began offering movie projections and music during long flights. Throughout the years, amenities have become much more advanced.
Nowadays, airlines are capable of offering in-flight wifi that has become sophisticated enough to provide streaming services—which means we get to watch Netflix and Hulu on flights that are equipped to handle it. As more technological solutions develop, we will start seeing all of the airlines provide high speed internet options.
Wifi is accessible on aircraft through two different systems: ground-based mobile broadband towers and satellite technology. Ground-based signals send the signals upwards and the aircraft catches them through an antenna that is usually located at the base of the fuselage. While the aircraft travels, it connects to the nearest tower, so ultimately it should not disrupt the connection. However, this option isn’t available overseas or in remote locations where there aren’t any towers available. And that’s where satellite technology becomes most useful. Satellites that are in geostationary orbit, which move with the Earth’s rotation, send signals below them through receivers and transmitters. The aircraft receives the signal through an antenna on top of the fuselage and distributes it to passengers through a router.
There are many companies that are researching and developing new technology for in-flight entertainment, with wifi being one of the top priorities. Because wifi was developed for use on the ground, it took a little longer to resolve the issues that accompanied in-flight use. However, it is advancing very quickly and now there are options to provide high speed internet access.
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