Lonely Planet Writer

High speed Wi-Fi that let's you stream live TV on European and US flights is coming soon

The days of loading up computers and tablets with books, music or even movies in anticipation of a long flight may well become a thing of the past.

A new survey found that smelly passengers on planes caused most annoyance to co-travellers
Broadband similar to what people have at home will soon be available Image by Simon_sees / CC BY 2.0

High speed Wi-Fi up to 200 Mbps – more than enough to stream live TV or music, or even both at the same time – are to be rolled out across the United States, Europe and the Middle East over the next year.

High Speed Web Access

A planned service by Panasonic Avionics will allow for high speed web access on any flight that starts or finishes in either North America or Europe.

It works by using what’s known as high throughput satellite technology to deliver broadband speeds, which are similar if not better than what many people have in their own homes.

Airplane in flight
Airplane in flight Image by Bernal Saborio / CC BY 2.0

The satellites can be used to target the strongest WiFi signal to the parts of the globe that get the most airplane traffic.

Air passengers will not be the only ones to benefit either, as the service will be made available for ferries, cruise vessels, and even offshore workers on oil and gas rigs.

Wi-Fi on 70% of US Flights

Airborne WiFi is becoming more common on flights, particularly in the US where some type of service is available on 70% of flights.

However, only 6% of on board Wi-Fi is currently considered in the “high bandwidth” category, a low figure that will hopefully change with technologies like the one being rolled out by Panasonic.

For passengers flying in the coming days or weeks, the airlines most likely to have a connected flight are Delta, United, American, and Emirates.

In Europe, the best airline for online access in the sky is Lufthansa, at least according to the latest state of in-flight WiFi report by Routehappy.