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Making Your In-Flight Connection

3 Things to Consider When Installing Onboard Internet

Your smartphone today has more computing power than NASA did in 1969, with far more functions than just allowing talk and text. Because our lives are so interconnected through the devices we use and “the Internet of Things” in our homes, cars, and workplaces, from your phone you now can control the temperature in your home, start your car, unlock your front door, send messages, and conduct live video chats.

Today you and your passengers expect those same capabilities to be available in-flight, which means the connected plane is no longer a luxury in business aviation. Onboard Wi-Fi, along with voice and text capabilities, are now mandatory. Connectivity is almost as essential as a pilot and propulsion, and those on board expect to be able to use their personal phone and other devices just like they do when sitting in their office or in a coffee shop.

Connectivity has become virtually a standard factory installation in most varieties of business aircraft, with jets, light jets, and even turboprops being manufactured with the necessary equipment for connectivity. However, if your aircraft does not provide connectivity in-flight, it’s now easier, and more affordable, than ever before to add the necessary equipment to enable voice, text, and internet capabilities.

There’s a lot of talk in the business aviation marketplace about network speeds. Connectivity in business aviation has evolved quickly, and as a result, most passengers have come to expect the same level of reliability and speed as they experience on the ground. While speed is important, it’s not the only consideration. Other factors must be weighed such as service coverage area (or the coverage map), network reliability, the cost of the service, and customer service when issues arise. With those factors in mind, choose your in-flight connectivity provider carefully, weighing the risks of an attractive but unproven newcomer against a company with a proven track record of delivering results.

Once you decide to install connectivity equipment, consider the following factors:

  • Choose the Right Monthly Plan – History is by far the best indicator, so review your usage history to help decide. Then, examine those patterns and trends against available airtime plans. Monitor your usage and you’ll quickly see patterns emerge within a couple of months. Also, be sure to talk to your airtime provider if adjustments are needed.
  • Manage Usage Costs – Balance your desired experience with the costs incurred. Data always will cost more in the air than on the ground, and video usage quickly can get out of hand when streamed in-flight – so be sure to monitor that closely. Video is by far the biggest driver of data consumption. Since a few minutes of video can be comparable to hundreds of emails with attachments, just because streaming video is easily available, it doesn’t mean it’s easily affordable. For example, if you’re spending $2 per megabyte for video, and an average movie is 2,000 megabytes when streamed, you could spend up to $4,000 to watch a single movie. You also can do some simple things to manage costs like turning off unneeded devices, ensuring you’re connected to the least-expensive system, and setting usage alerts.
  • Set Passenger Expectations – Let your passengers know that in-flight connectivity is great for email, web surfing, file transfer, and voice and texting, but some high-bandwidth applications like streaming video or VoIP may not work reliably or be supported at all.

Successfully managing your business life today depends on maintaining uninterrupted connectivity. Ask your in-flight connectivity provider for guidance, based on your specific needs, so that you can avoid an in-flight communication breakdown. BAA

John Wade is the executive vice president and general manager for Gogo Business Aviation and has more than 20 years of experience in avionics and in-flight communications.


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