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How Does In-flight Wi-Fi Work?

Have you ever wondered how mobile signals travel to 40,000 feet so you can watch “The Office” for the hundredth time? That’s the beauty of inflight WiFi that keeps you linked to the internet. 

The central government has authorised Indian airlines to provide in-flight Wi-Fi aids to passengers. In-flight Wi-Fi helps you use your electronic gadgets with an internet connection like you use ordinarily. 

Akin to Wi-Fi in every other place – such as our homes or workplace – there are surprisingly many ways to receive Wi-Fi inclination on an aeroplane. Even in general, there must be a way for the plane to intercommunicate with the towers on the ground, which isn’t as complicated as you might think. Thanks to advanced technology, the means are more straightforward than most people realize, which is why it is such a mundane practice anymore to have in-flight Wi-Fi.

There are three modes of connectivity for inflight Wi-Fi: ground-based Wi-Fi and satellite-based Wi-Fi. 

  1. Ground-based Wi-Fi:

Ground-based Wi-Fi works just like our smartphones. Aeroplanes have an antenna positioned beneath their bodies, which connects up with booster stations. As the plane flies, it simply links to the nearest transmitter on a rotation basis.

The aeroplane acts like an access point for passengers to surf the internet and do tasks like sending emails, making calls, and even watching movies. Yet, this ground-based Wi-Fi can’t work when the plane is flying over large water regions, like on oceanic routes. In addition to this, the service may slow down if several people on board are making use of the connection.

 That’s where satellite-based Wi-Fi comes in.

  1. Satellite-Based WiFi:

Satellite-based Wi-Fi uses a network of revolving satellites to allow a connection. The satellite is connected to ground stations, and the aeroplane links to it using a satellite antenna on the top of the airframe.

It is important to note that the plane uses whichever satellite is nearest as it flies. Satellite-based WiFi works on two varying capacities: narrowband and broadband. Either enables passengers full Internet access. However, the narrower options are not good enough for streaming videos online. 

  1. Ka-Band:

Ka-Band is a more satellite-based Wi-Fi service, which is utilised frequently for military information and gives some of the accelerated Wi-Fi services obtainable today. It guarantees activities up to 70 Mbps and allows you to stream videos, upload photographs, and scroll through various social media sites. 

Although there is only one Ka-Band satellite in the U.S., other companies are soon planning to make Ka-band available in Canada and parts of Europe pretty soon. 

What Does A Plane Have To Do To Offer Wi-Fi To Its Passengers?

Many interior pieces of equipment are necessary for an aeroplane to provide Wi-Fi services to its passengers. These include black boxes that line one side of the plane and are set above the windows. These are your in-flight Wi-Fi access points. They are known as wireless access points or WAPs, and a QuadRax cable connects them.

First of all, aircraft are usually kept “auto-restricted,” which means that all data is evenly divided among all the plane users. The fewer the consumers, the quicker the Wi-Fi service will be. 

Does The Wi-Fi Service Come Free?

If you’re inquisitive about whether your airline offers free wi-Fi or not, there is a simple way to discover that. Most airlines provide some Wi-Fi ability, but a majority of them provide it only on particular models of their aeroplanes. You can either visit the airline’s website or give them a call to find out for sure, and similarly, you can inquire about free Wi-Fi eligibility on the plane.

Luckily, the airlines that charge for their Wi-Fi service don’t charge very much, and you can generally pay for it in advance through their website or wait until you are on the plane. The flight crew will solve all your queries concerning their aeroplane and Wi-Fi capability, so never falter to ask them any questions.


Although most internet providers on the flight offer an unfettered service and do not block access to most websites,  Voice over Internet Protocol settings such as Skype, and Zoom, which allow you to make phone calls over the Internet, are restricted in flights. 

This is because the flight crew takes all measures required to make the flight as peaceful as possible for the majority of the travellers. The internet systems instinctively drop any receptacles containing voice data to avoid disturbing other passengers while passing other data within.


We hope this article could give you deep insight into how Wi-Fi works on an aeroplane when you are far away from the cell towers. To get comprehensive knowledge about the aviation industry, you can always check out Aviators of Tomorrow, one of the best flight schools in India.



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