Wi-Fi and Ubiquitous Wireless Connectivity
for People and Things

By: Sean Yarborough

Terrestrial network solutions don’t typically work so well at sea and in the air. Simply put, moving (especially at high speed) and being distant from antennas and masts creates unique challenges for the delivery of reliable connectivity that meets the bandwidth requirements of a business’ operating systems, crew, and passengers.

Satellite is a critical component to overcome these challenges and deliver a high-quality and high-capacity service that today’s maritime and aeronautical companies require. Satellite can enable these businesses to implement digital transformations that bring enormous commercial benefits.

And, as we move into a new era of 5G-powered connectivity, the ability to marry these technologies into satellite will be key—moving beyond just the ability to provide reliable connectivity but implement economically competitive and efficient networks.

What’s the Wi-Fi password?

Customer requirements for reliable, residential-like connectivity speeds on passenger flights have risen over the past decade. The reality of 21st century life is omnipresent access to reliable, high-performing broadband, and savvy passengers are beginning to expect in-flight connectivity (IFC). We can get Wi-Fi in almost every other public space, so why not in an aluminum or composite tube moving at 600 mph while 30,000 feet in the air?

In an era of lower traveler numbers and increased competition in the market, it’s critical that airline operators can set themselves apart and offer new and enticing experiences to their passengers, for whom Internet access is key. Respondents to a recent international Inmarsat survey ranked passenger experience as the most important factor when it comes to the enjoyment of a flight.

Operational requirements such as maintenance, crew communications and applications also require high-bandwidth IFC. Leveraging top-performing connectivity can enable a strong business advantage in terms of customer loyalty, crew productivity, and company profitability.

But it’s not just the global carriers that will benefit from IFC. Business aviation is actually leading the way in its willingness to pay for IFC service as long as it is high quality and always available. Similar to the yachting market in the maritime world, quality of experience (QoE) expectations are even higher than on commercial passenger aircraft.

Beyond the pure delivery of reliable in-flight Wi-Fi, or quality of service (QoS), the ‘holy grail’ of the highest degree of customer satisfaction is in a user experience that rivals that on land where connectivity seamlessly passes from airport to tarmac to in-flight and back again. Users don’t want to log in to multiple interfaces as they go from home to school to the store. Rather, where technology is concerned, the more often things ‘just work,’ the better. Seamless connectivity therefore is the panacea. Cellular, wireless and satellite businesses see that, for their services to be useful, they need to be easy to use.

Therefore, telecom stakeholders are devising standards for the likes of automatic login on all devices, multi-system access points within the aircraft for LTE, Wi-Fi, IoT and 5G, and app servers that can enable unique passenger and operational applications. Invested stakeholders want to play a role in streamlining system integration and certification, enabling simplified billing across stakeholders, increased passenger accessibility, and open specifications for interoperability. The intended result of all this collaboration is passengers using their own devices in the air as easily as they do on the ground.

Waving goodbye to choppy connectivity

Another key industry for connectivity on the move is the maritime industry. It can be divided into multiple segments such as merchant, fishing,


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