- 08 Jun 2020
- Brian Wilson
- Jet Connectivity
David Wyndham offers a rough guide to the costs of cabin connectivity, and details the factors that determine what is the right amount for you to be paying...Back to Articles
How much does it cost to connect business aircraft passengers with their offices, families and friends while in flight? What are the factors that drive those costs? David Wyndham explores...
In most urban areas, Wi-Fi is second only to oxygen as being expected for free. These days, commuter buses and rail services offer it – mostly at no cost – to fare-paying passenger. Bars, coffee shops and restaurants also provide it along with water and breadsticks.
In a fixed location, provision of Wi-Fi is relatively inexpensive. For slow-moving vehicles, as long as they’re operating in more populated areas Wi-Fi is also affordable. All of these options use cellular towers to send and receive the signals, and a small transmitter (or several) to disperse the signal.
Where Wi-Fi is concerned, aircraft complicate matters. Nevertheless, today’s passengers expect Wi-Fi on the airplane in the same way they receive it on the commuter rail.
In North America, many of the airlines have a Wi- Fi provision, ranging from free of charge up to $20 for a day pass. These use Air-To-Ground (ATG) systems (such as the ubiquitous GoGo systems), which use cellular towers located across much of North America, and switching technologies that allow for smooth and continuous signals.
Personal and business aircraft have similar ATG options that, thanks to growing technology, are smaller and lighter in weight than the systems available a few years ago. ATG systems are primarily limited to North America.
Business jets travelling internationally have for many years communicated globally using satellite phones. While there are several different types of satellite systems with varying coverages, there are ultimately few places on the planet where a signal cannot be received – even on polar routes. Satellite systems that offer HD, streaming, and broadband are available.
Connectivity: How to Decide What You’ll Need to Pay?
As we’ll discuss, costs vary between ‘costly’, going to ‘well beyond expensive’. (Of course, the costs you pay are all relative to the business sense for the system you use.) So, what are the main factors in the cabin connectivity puzzle that will help you choose the right amount of connectivity for your needs?
Following are some of the key pieces…
What is the Cost of Business Aircraft Connectivity?
Installation costs vary by system and by aircraft model. The antennas mount externally with connections, wiring and routers being internal. Different aircraft models present different challenges in antenna placement, as well as how and where wiring can be installed.
In Large Cabin Jets especially, interior configurations not only dictate where equipment can be installed, but also signal strengths. The following costs are, therefore, approximate:
Closing Thoughts: Education, Control & Security
Charter operators that charge the user for the data need to let passengers know what the costs are in terms the passengers understand. As an example, $6.95/Mb is less understood than $100 for a 30- minute television show.
Moreover, not every flight will need the maximum data and speed capability available. Connectivity providers today offer options that reduce (throttle) the data stream when usage is low. Satellite providers monitor their satellites and air traffic, and can communicate with the crew in advance of flying into areas with poor coverage or high density use so they can warn passengers to reduce their usage while flying in those area.
One last consideration is data security. If your company is working on truly secret data, the connection needs to be secure from airplane, to satellite, to ground server, to your corporate server.
You can expect Enterprise- or even Government-Certified levels of security to add both cost and the need for skilled IT management.