FCC streamlines approval process for in-flight Wi-Fi systems


Busy executives view long plane trips as an opportunity to catch up on work using mobile devices that are able to access the Internet on in-plane Wi-Fi systems. The aircraft is able to provide Wi-Fi access by connecting to special wireless towers or through satellite links.

The Federal Communications Commission announced last week that it is streamlining the licensing process for in-plane, satellite-based Wi-Fi systems, which employ antennas mounted on aircraft that connect to satellites, providing two-way, in-flight broadband services to passengers and crews.

The FCC is formalizing satellite-based systems on aircrafts as a licensed application, instead of requiring airlines to apply for FCC approval on an ad-hoc basis. Airlines will be able to test satellite-based systems that meet FCC standards, as long as they do not interfere with other aircraft systems, and receive Federal Aviation Administration approval to operate them.

"By reducing administrative burdens on both applicants and the commission, the new rules should allow the commission to process [satellite-based system] applications up to 50 percent faster, enhancing competition in an important sector of the mobile telecommunications market in the United States and promoting the widespread availability of Internet access to aircraft passenger," the FCC explained in a release.

One company that provides satellite-based broadband services on-board aircraft is Satcom Direct. Last month, the company launched its FlightDeck 360 mobile application, which allows corporate aircraft customers to view real-time flight data and use datalink communications before and during a flight with an iPad.

For more:
- see FCC announcement
- check out Satcom Direct's release

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