If some time ago you were able to say "Sorry, I was on a plane without the internet" now it is not an excuse anymore. Airlines are offering faster and cheaper Wi-Fi and you are able to finish your work on-board! But there is also an EAN emerging which can change the internet connection experience on-board for traveling in European Union.
But there are many questions about the technologies and how does it work up in the air. Also, the question "how do we get that connection there?"
There are few simple ways we can explain it. The first is via ground-based mobile broadband towers. They are sending signals up to the aircraft antenas. And the plane connects to the signals automatically from the nearest tower.
Second method is using the satellite technology. They are connected with the aircrafts in geostationary orbit, that is about 36,000 km above the planet and they work together with the transmitters.
Some of these satellites are used in television signals. Also, weather forecasting and military operations.
So the main procedure happens when the information is being transmitted from and to the phone via the aircraft antenna. Of course, on the plane there is the router that distributes Wi-Fi to the passengers.
Nowadays, especially in the US, the internet connection on-board is better and cheaper than in other continents.
Of course, the biggest con is that the Wi-Fi is really slow. Another con is that it is extremely expensive. Why it is like that?
Apparently, it is really expensive to maintain the satellites. Also, because on-board the internet connection is powered via antennas. Using them the aircraft increases the fuel consumption. It is similar with a car. When you use the radio, air conditioning, you also increase the fuel consumption. Same is with the internet connection in the aircrafts.
If you decide that you need Wi-Fi on-board, the price for the data varies from the airline company. Most of them give first minutes or some MB for free and only then start charging. For example, Emirates offer first 10MB for free.
We can talk about the future and the Wi-Fi on-board. But as it is known, Deutsche Telekom is developing European Aviation Network, which is providing the 4G LTE connection service on-board in 28 countries in Europe together with Norway and Switzerland.
Some airlines already signed for joining the EAN but we can only wait and see how the real future of internet on-board will look like.