Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wi-Fi in the sky

With the growing concern for people to be plugged in at all times, a new market has opened up for airlines to provide wireless internet access in their airplanes. The first 2 providers of the 4 competing for airlines business are Row 44, the Wi-Fi provider to Southwest Airlines Co, and Panasonic Avionics Corp, a component of Japan's Panasonic Corp, provide worldwide Wi-Fi via satellite, and, by the end of this year, want to stream news and live sports events to fliers' devices. The third and the market's dark horse is ViaSat Inc, a communications company that plans to make a more potent in-flight Wi-Fi via the newest satellite technology, called Ka band by end of 2012. Airplanes at 30,000 feet are able to offer Wi-Fi, movies and TV shows on travelers' smartphones, tablets and laptops. Five major domestic carriers: Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America jumped at the oppurtunity of Wi-Fi early. These companies choose the fourth provider Gogo. Gogo transmits its connection from cellular towers that are grounded to antennas that can be set up on a plane in half a day. Except the connection is restricted to the U.S. and it doesn't offer live television. Gogo's competition wants to outdo them by providing more features and larger service, but have yet to establish themselves in the US airways.

I think wireless internet on airplanes is a great innovation and good marketing strategy to attract more business to airlines. People today are on their phones, laptops, and tablets all the time needing to stay connected to friends and family or doing the endless amount of work I know college students have first hand. “According to Maressa Orzack, director of the Computer Addiction Study Center at Harvard University’s McLean Hospital, between 5% and 10% of Web surfers suffer some form of Web dependency”(2). This data reinforces even more that people need to be plugged in at all times and some people so much they have become dependent on it. The one thing I am worried about is people talking in the cabins.

For business men and women it will help productivity immensely. "Time on an airplane was either time lost or time found," said Tim Mapes, Delta's vice president of marketing. "This is going to totally change the dynamics of what a business trip is"(3). Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson Delta’s Chief Executive stated his business surveyed 15 of its biggest corporate customers and asked if they like live television or Internet access on a flight. "Overwhelmingly they wanted to be more productive," Mr. Anderson said (3). People want to stay busy as Americans we are constantly multi-tasking, getting work done, and demand information at all times. I aplaud the airlines for finding away to better the customers experience and increase their revenues through IT.

As a customer or even a drawback for the companies there are a few things to be wary about with the wireless internet in airplanes. You don’t want to be sitting next to someone talking on their phone the whole flight while you are trying to sleep. Texting, emails, and silent communication is more than sufficient. The cabin would be filled with noise and commotion resulting as an annoyance and even possible danger to the plane. Furthermore we are always connected and dependent on the internet and our phones. Airplanes were the last place for people to get away and to detach themselves from the constant work and technology. Do we really want to give up this?


(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_addiction_disorder

(3) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121788491128311271.html

1 comment:

  1. Wi-fi on airplanes is certainly a benefit for business people, and other passengers who simply would like something to do on a long flight. It would seem that this is a great technology—and even a market place. The airlines could sell access codes to only allow people, who pay for the service to utilize it — be it on a flight to flight basis, or a time based one, the potential for profitability is absolutely there. What I wonder is what would happen if someone used this wi-fi to potentially harm the systems of the plane. I’ll first say that I am by no means any expert on modern airplanes, but I believe that it is a safe assumption that they use a great deal of technology which can probably be hacked into via an internet connection. If this were to happen, what would stop the hacker from changing the auto-pilot controls or the any of the navigational technology on the plane to re-direct it to their desired destination unknown to the pilots? While cyber war-fare is uncommon and impractical, it does leave one to wonder just how vulnerable the systems of an aircraft are. Think of everyone time you have taken a flight—what do the stewardesses ask you to do? “Please switch all electronics and devices to the off position please”. Is this strictly for the sake of turbulence, or could the wi-fi technologies of your laptop, tablet, or phone interfere with the aircrafts systems?