Wireless Internet on Planes - Why Not?

Discussion in 'Community' started by RedMacMan, Mar 4, 2004.

  1. RedMacMan macrumors member

    Sep 16, 2003
    So I'm an IT consultant, and fly roundtrip every week - usually about a 2+ hour flight each way. It's a constant source of annoyance to me that

    1) Airports don't provide free wireless internet
    2) Airplanes are not equipped with free wireless internet (and are generally super-anal about wireless ANYTHING)

    An example of point #2 is the curt request from a flight attendant on a recent flight to abstain from using my bluetooth mouse with my Powerbook while onboard.

    So my question for the forum is - are there really legimate, significant reasons why such wireless internet service cannot be deployed in aircraft, or is this just an example of over-zealous and over-cautious regulation?

    I remember reading a while back that Lufthansa was rolling out an experimental test period of wireless internet on their flagship 747s, and wondered why we can't do the same here in the states. It would make my weekly air-commute soooo much more pleasant.
  2. job macrumors 68040


    Jan 25, 2002
    in transit
    Wireless internet is coming to business and first class on most trans-oceanic carriers. However, it is not free and will only be available if you pay a lump sum before hand.

    It was featured in a magazine a while back. I can't remember which one.
  3. JesseJames macrumors 6502a

    Mar 28, 2003
    How'd I get here? How can I leave?
    Well, uh, there are instruments in the cockpit that everyone on the plane depends on to stay alive that wireless devices might interfere with.
    I don't really know why you may need to be online in the air. It's insanely expensive to talk on the in-flight phone anyway.
    But aircraft manufacturers will figure out a way to make it everyday in the future I'm sure.
  4. jxyama macrumors 68040


    Apr 3, 2003
    if it matters enough to you, then most large airports now have paid internet services. whatever airport adds in services eventually shows up in the plane tickets as airport facility fees - so it's at best arguable to make it a free service to cater to some users while increasing the fee for everyone.

    that said, narita airport in japan had free internet - but it was sponsored by intel.

    can't remember where i've read them, but i have heard wireless stuff do disrupt some navigation instrument. and when it comes to flight safety, i'd rather have regulations err on the cautious side.
  5. MoparShaha macrumors 68000


    May 15, 2003
    San Francisco
    All the talk about interference with aircraft instruments is BS. Tests have been done that show consumer wireless devices do not interefere with instruments. It's just that the FAA is overly paranoid, and doesn't want to take a chance.

    Getting internet access to a plane should not be expensive. The technology is there. This, however, doesn't mean they won't charge a rediculous price. Anyways, I don't really see the need for wireless access on a plane. It's not like you're walking around or anything. A simple ethernet plug should suffice.
  6. parrothead macrumors 6502a


    Sep 24, 2003
    Edmonds, WA

    Ok, would YOU like to take a chance? How about flying over an Ocean and the plane gets lost because someone wanted to use their bluetooth mouse? I guarantee falling out of the sky from 30,000 feet is much worse than not being able to use a wireless device for a few hours. I personally WANT the FAA to be overly paranoid.
  7. RedMacMan thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 16, 2003
    Yeah good point. It must just be that ever since getting a new Aluminum Powerbook I've come to realize that Airport Extreme is the best thing in the world, and now want everywhere I go blanketed with high-speed wireless internet. :)

    I long for the day when internet access is no longer considererd a 'perk' hotels/airports/etc can charge us outrageously for, but is instead just par for the course.
  8. SiliconAddict macrumors 603


    Jun 19, 2003
    Chicago, IL
    Thanks but I don't give a flying **** if there is only 1 in a 100, 1 in 1,000, or 1 in 100,000 chance. If there is even a possibility that it's going to interfere with the hardware on a plane you dang well shouldn't being using it. Flying is a big enough risk as it is without needing to tack on another possible item that could bring a plane down. And frankly you and everyone else can deal with no access. No one is so blatantly important that they need to be connected at all times.

    Please point us to these tests. I want to see a 5 year study with several hundred hours of tests before someone makes the claim that a wireless network isn't going to possibly kill several hundred people just for an over the top convenience.

    Actually I'm more then a little happy the FAA bands cell phones. One of the few places on this earth where I don't have to listen to Mr. important tell his friend how his did on the freaking Lakers pool last night.
  9. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Saftey concerns aside (because they have already been mentioned) why do you expect it to be free?

  10. RedMacMan thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 16, 2003
    Cause I'm a demanding SOB! That's why! ;)

    But seriously, I read an article regarding how WIFI hotspots are popping up at coffee shops, book stores, etc, and how the billing/accounting overhead ending up costing more than just setting up the connection and letting everyone use it for free. The rationale is that the additional business generated because of the free access would more than make up for the expense of maintaining the connection.

    Of course, a cogent argument could be made that an airplane is a whole different arena, since people don't just "drop by" airplanes to drink coffee/read books. :)
  11. janey macrumors 603


    Dec 20, 2002
    sunny los angeles
    jeez use your cell phone.

    or stop bitching, i dunno. not too many people have laptops or carry them onboard a plane...
    then again most of the time on planes 90% of the laptops I see are Macs :p
  12. rainman::|:| macrumors 603


    Feb 2, 2002
    You want proof that consumer devices won't hurt a plane? How about providing proof that they *could*? There has never been a recorded instance of a cell phone, laptop, ANY electronic device causing such interference. It's like saying, don't eat pudding while watching TV, because you'll get cancer. A statement not founded in hard facts, no supporting evidence, leaving people pointlessly afraid.

    I know it's no big deal, and consumer appliances *are* very annoying (especially on flights), but it's like that wives' tale about swimming after you eat-- a piece of BS that gets passed around and turned into fact.

  13. G4scott macrumors 68020


    Jan 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I don't remember exactly why they have electronic devices banned during takeoff and landing, but it has to deal with the fact that your electronic devices produce waves which can create a current in wires that are connected to critical control surfaces on the plane (rudder, ailerons, etc.). A small current on one of these wires could move one of these control surfaces inadvertently at a critical time (landing and takeoff), and cause the plane to do something you don't want it to do.

    If a microwave can affect pacemakers, then what makes you think your wireless internet is entirely safe. I'm sure certain precautions have to be made, and besides, it's another way for the airlines to make money when they desperately need it.

    Also, as said before, I would rather have the FAA be extra cautions, and anal, because a problem at 30,000 feet is no fun...
  14. MoparShaha macrumors 68000


    May 15, 2003
    San Francisco
    You can't compare a microwave to WiFi. As I've already stated, I don't think WiFi is a useful thing on an aircraft, but still, theres a big difference between a microwave and WiFi. Microwaves use well over 1000 watts of power, which is quite a bit more than a WiFi radio.

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