Qualcomm push will mean faster net on flights

In-flight internet speeds could soon match speeds on mother Earth if a Qualcomm proposal to use satellites is approved by regulators. 

Qualcomm is pushing the Federal Communications Commission to free up airwaves used by the satellite industry for commercial use, the Wall Street Journal reports. The system is still years away, so even if the FCC approves it, Qualcomm will have plenty of work to do to get it off the ground, pardon the pun.

“Mobile broadband demand on board aircraft is exploding–just as much, if not more so, than it is on the ground,” the wireless-technology company said in a regulatory filing. Qualcomm pointed out that current in-flight communication systems are too expensive, or too slow to meet the demand of mobile users, spoiled by terrestrial 4G speeds. 

The move could revolutionise in-flight entertainment, as it would practically allow anyone to stream whatever they please, whenever they want it. Since airline companies are not exactly known for good taste when it comes to entertainment, high speed in-flight internet could be a boon to frequent fliers.

It could also allow business travellers to take part in video conferences while cruising over the Atlantic at 30,000 feet, increasing productivity and annoying everyone else on the plane in the process.

However, satellite companies aren’t exactly thrilled by the prospect of more competition, particularly from a heavyweight like Qualcomm. They claim they need their precious airwaves and fear that Qualcomm’s gear could interfere with their own services, which is sort of the point of Qualcomm’s efforts.