WiFi is still making its way up 35,000 feet, but AT&T already has plans to embed its LTE network in airplanes for air-to-ground 4G in-flight connectivity.
The carrier said on Monday afternoon that it would launch an LTE-based in-flight connectivity system for airlines and passengers in commercial, business, and general aviation in late 2015. For passengers, the broadband service will include WiFi and entertainment. For the airline, it will bring improved cockpit communications, maintenance operations, and crew services, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) says.
AT&T doesn’t have aviation partners as of yet, but it's building the LTE network to work in the US on spectrum it already owns. It will announce availability and pricing information closer to the launch.
Why this matters
In-flight connectivity has become a priority for business and leisure travelers alike. While a lot of airline fleets have WiFi, the service often leaves much to be desired. AT&T says it will work with aerospace company Honeywell to improve the experience.
This move will pit AT&T against companies like GoGo that are well-entrenched in the airline industry with carrier partners, but it's a natural extension for the operator, which is also making a big push into connected cars. (See Volvo: AT&T HSPA+ Can Drive My Car and AT&T Tests Drivers' Desire to Pay for LTE.)
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading