Faster Wi-Fi on flights leads to battle in the sky
By Alwyn Scott and Victoria Bryan
NEW YORK/HAMBURG (Reuters) - Wi-Fi in the sky is taking off, promising much better connections for travelers and a bonanza for the companies that sell the systems.
With satellite-based Wi-Fi, Internet speeds on jetliners are getting lightning fast. And airlines are finding that travelers expect connections in the air to rival those on the ground - and at lower cost.
But the fast evolution of rival systems and standards, such as Ku band and Ka band, pose a big question for airlines: which one to choose?
Equipping fleets can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and airlines don't want to see their investment quickly become outdated due to newer technology. That's made some cautious about signing up.
"We don't want to end up with a Betamax," said Peter Ingram, chief financial officer of Hawaiian Airlines, referring to the Sony video format that eventually lost out to the VHS standard, leaving many consumers with obsolete systems.
Hawaiian is still considering which system to use.
The drive for in-flight connectivity also has intensified after the disappearance on March 8 of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people aboard. Search teams are scouring parts of the Indian Ocean for the missing aircraft, and it might have been better tracked if a satellite system capable of streaming cockpit data had been on board.
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