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What is the Biggest Barrier for In-Flight Wi-Fi Connectivity?

One major reason is the difficulty connecting to the Internet due to the traditional captive portal method.

The report “In-Flight Wi-Fi Connectivity: Improving Passenger Experience, Engagement and Uptake” by Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has explained how airlines, service providers and other stakeholders can make it faster and easier for travelers to get and stay connected onboard aircraft.

WIFIThe report covers the top business and technological challenges faced by stakeholders such as airlines, identity providers including mobile operators, satellite and air-to-ground backhaul services, avionics vendors and hub services that facilitate roaming. For example, although in-flight Wi-Fi is now widely available aboard many commercial aircraft, passenger adoption does not reflect the high use of Wi-Fi that we see in other environments on the ground.

One major reason is the difficulty connecting to the Internet due to the traditional captive portal method. Passengers must connect to the correct Wi-Fi (network SSID), then navigate to the correct landing page and finally determine which pass they want to buy, how to register and pay. In an online journey, each incremental step usually leads to dropouts, and for airlines, service providers and other ecosystem members, every dropout due to this unnecessarily complex connection process is lost revenue.

Airlines have invested in inflight portal services, and an employer’s VPN is a barrier for business travellers consuming these. Once they have internet connectivity, connecting to their VPN will prevent them being able to access these onboard services. To regain access, they must disconnect their VPN. This back-and-forth makes them less likely to purchase in-flight services such as inflight food and duty free — another revenue loss for airlines and other ecosystem members.

The report explores how stakeholders can overcome these and other major barriers and improve the process. For example, implementing Passpoint® frees passengers from the hassle of manually entering log-in credentials every time. Instead, the aircraft’s network automatically authenticates and connects them on every flight with an automatic, secure and friction-free user experience.

Passpoint also lays the foundation for airlines and other ecosystem members to participate in the WBA’s OpenRoaming™ federation. By simply adding the appropriate Roaming Consortium Organization Identifiers (RCOIs) to the network, airlines and other ecosystem members can leverage the enhanced security, privacy, and automatic network attached experience afforded by Passpoint, which are key concerns for business travellers, with the convenience of OpenRoaming for authentication.

As a federated service, OpenRoaming also ensures that travellers get and stay connected at additional locations throughout their journey to and in the airport, hotels, convention centers and any other public locations, and finally on board the aircraft. Airlines can use this gate-to-gate experience to create new loyalty opportunities for travellers, and new monetization models with identity providers and partners.

Going forward, WBA members have already agreed to move one step further and start developing industry guidelines for users’ digital experience when using Wi-Fi networks. This ultimately will unleash a consistent experience across networks with non-fixed backhaul, such as maritime and trains use cases. Ultimately, an integrated and consistent mechanism will be trialled initially by WBA members in real world scenarios, and create the standard for commercial rollout.

Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance, said: “Connectivity today is fundamental for our daily lives and Wi-Fi is the most used wireless connectivity technology in the world. The in-flight Wi-Fi experience must improve to give vacationers and business travellers access to flight information, entertainment, social media and more. But a host of technological and business challenges have prevented in-flight Wi-Fi from living up to its mainstream potential. This report shows airlines, mobile operators, avionics vendors and other stakeholders how they can overcome those barriers to adoption — creating new revenue, branding, loyalty and other business opportunities in the process.”

Bruno Tomas, CTO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance said: “Airline travel is soaring, with international traffic up 229.5% over the past year and total traffic up 76.2%, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). That trend means now is the ideal time for airlines to take a fresh look at their in-flight Wi-Fi experience. This report shows how they can use Passpoint and WBA OpenRoaming to eliminate complexity so passengers can take full advantage of all their in-flight services.”


Nitisha Dubey

I am a Journalist with a post graduate degree in Journalism & Mass Communication. I love reading non-fiction books, exploring different destinations and varieties of cuisines. Biographies and historical movies are few favourites.

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