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FCC floats plan to speed up in-flight Wi-Fi

Posting in Government

In-flight Wi-Fi connections--when they're available-- tend to be slow and expensive.

The Federal Communications Commission introduced a proposal Thursday that could help speed up service and push prices lower.

The government agency recommended auctioning off the rights to use newly available airwaves to provide better in-flight Wi-Fi connections, reported the New York Times.

Today, in-flight Wi-Fi has speeds of around 3 megabits per second, per plane--one-third of the average wired broadband speed, notes the NYT. If you were the only one using the in-flight Wi-Fi that slower speed might not be so bad. But that connection is shared by other folks who signed up for the in-flight Internet service.

The new system would be an air-ground mobile broadband service in the 14.0-14.5 gigahertz band, the FCC said. Qualcomm, which has proposed the air-ground mobile broadband system to the FCC, said the 500 megahertz of spectrum at 14.0-14.5 GHz can sustain data rates of 300 gigabits per second.

The end result would be Internet service that would be 30 times faster than the average broadband speed most Americans have in their homes.

Don't get too excited yet. The service won't be available for at least a couple of years. The FCC's proposal merely gets the process started, which begins with a public commentary period.

Photo of Southwest Airlines WiFi service via Southwest Airlines

— By on May 10, 2013, 2:02 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure