Lufthansa tests high speed Internet as airlines look to improve connectivity

A JetBlue passenger logs onto the Internet.

A JetBlue passenger logs onto the Internet.  (AP File Photo)

On Monday, German airline Lufthansa announced that it will be the first European airline to offer high-speed Internet access on short and medium-haul flights.

Britain's Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom are working together to build a new network that combines satellite and air-to-ground technologies that will provide speed and coverage levels “comparable to home broadband services,” according to Reuters.

Lufthansa currently offers wireless Internet access on long-haul flights but starting in 2017, the carrier will roll out the new service on 180 aircraft. The airline has yet to announce a pricing structure for the new Wi-Fi service.

The move to offer better Internet at 30,000 feet is part of a growing trend as airlines respond to a growing demand for connectivity—while look for new ways to increase profits.

In the U.S., Gogo Inflight provides Wi-Fi for 70 percent of domestic carriers, and is now available on about 2,400 planes, reports the Los Angeles Times. Currently the company only utilizes a slower, ground-based system which is good for checking emails and browsing the web but cannot support services that require faster speeds like streaming.

Next year, however, the company plans to launch a new satellite-based system that can over speeds of up to 70 megabits per second—light years ahead of the current 3 to 4 megabits per second rate. Gogo is currently offered on the largest domestic carriers, including Delta, United and American, and the company says seven airlines have already “committed to testing the system on a trial basis or installing it on their entire fleet,” according the L.A. Times.  

But even when the new technology becomes available next year, don’t expect high speed Wi-Fi on every commercial flight. Airlines must take aircraft out of service to install the new equipment.

And, like Luftansha, Gogo has yet to work out a new pricing strategy for the speedier in air Wi-Fi service.