Wider availability of in-flight Internet services is on the way, thanks to a new move by the Federal Communications Commission that aims to reduce the amount of time it takes to deploy on-board broadband systems.
While airlines have been allowed to install exterior satellite antennae to enable wireless communications on an ad hoc basis for the past several years, this recent development means that carriers can evaluate options that have already been cleared by the FAA; test them in their own vessels to ensure there's no signal interference; and seek the administration's approval, according to the FCC's statement. As a result, the FCC should be able to process applications for these communications systems in half the usual time.
Rising demand for "ubiquitous broadband" and its economic impact no doubt has factored into the increasing pressure to offer in-flight wireless. However, the FCC's impetus does not affect the current ban on in-flight mobile phone usage, although some restrictions on electronic device usage may be eased.
There's no indication yet of when in-flight broadband will be widely available.