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In-Flight Wi-Fi Speeds Are About To Take Off

In-Flight Wi-Fi could be getting a speed boost with German researchers finding an efficient way to transfer data between an aircraft and the ground.

Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has transferred signals at a rate of 8 gigabits per second between an aeroplane and a ground station, the first time this has ever been accomplished.

The researchers reached this high data rate by using the radio frequency range between 71 and 76 gigahertz for the air-to-ground radio connection. In this range just released by the authority for such purposes, large bandwidths are available for achieving multi-gigabit data rates.

This quick transfer means broadband internet and video-on-demand could be accessed on a flight.

Thomas Zwick, head of the Institute of High-Frequency Technology and Electronics of KIT says, “The frequencies now available represent a good compromise between the achievable data rate and susceptibility to interference.”

The data rate achieved now enables simultaneous transmission of up to 600 different 4K video streams, corresponding to about 16 megabits per second.

According to KIT, world-spanning satellite networks seamlessly integrated in glass fibre and radio networks on the ground by this technology can provide globally available broadband internet and enable an increasing number of data-intensive services on the internet of things.

During the test flight, the research aircraft circled around the receiver station at a radius of five to twelve kilometres and a height of 1000m. A KIT-developed control system for the parabolic antenna on the ground ensured precise orientation to the aeroplane. The broadband connection remained stable for three minutes during a complete overflight at a radius of five kilometres.

With a data rate of 8 gigabits per second, this corresponds to a data volume of 180 gigabytes. The connection also works under bad weather conditions with clouds, rain, and fog.

Aussie airlines Qantas and Virgin Australia have been ramping up their Wi-Fi offerings. Qantas is adding Wi-Fi to all its 737 and A330 by the end of 2019 and Virgin Australia the first Aussie airline bringing Wi-Fi to its LA international flights.

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