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Monday, August 26, 2013

Wi-Fi on planes, trains to start picking up speed in early 2014

As reported by Death and Taxes: Starting in early 2014 when you pay for Wi-Fi access on a plane or train, the service you buy may be able to actually get you online - at a speed conducive to doing actual work.

New satellite technology called Earth Stations on Mobile Platforms (ESOMPs) can deliver Wi-Fi to moving vehicles at speeds 10 times faster than current technology. It’s kind of a misleading name because the new technology is actually satellite based. Unlike the GoGo in-flight internet you’re used to buying that takes ground-based cellular data and converts it to Wi-Fi, the ESOMPs beam high-speed Wi-Fi signals to satellite level. And unlike the the GoGo in-flight internet, it has some actual kick.

BBC reports that British communications regulator Ofcom is in the process of considering ESOMPs for approval and that the FCC has already approved them in the U.S. Starting in early 2014 the internet on flights should be fast enough for you to stream Netflix movies, and make calls and video conferences over Skype.

Since around the time the first iPhone came out I've been saying the biggest innovation we need now isn't in new gadgets but in the infrastructure to make the gadgets we already have actually work. I’m sitting in the middle of Los Angeles, right under the Hollywood sign, and I have absolutely zero cell reception. It’s completely crazy that our infrastructure isn't better than it is.

With that in mind, a new kind of Wi-Fi called “802.11ac” is on the horizon (using high-density 256 QAM) and should start making its way into our daily lives soon. At a speed of 1.3 Gigabits per second, it’s more than double the current top speed of standard high-speed Wi-Fi, enough to “transfer an entire high-definition movie to a tablet in under 4 minutes, share photo albums with friends in a matter of seconds or stream three HD videos at the same time,” reports CNN.

Up until now my attitude toward Apple’s lackluster product releases has been, “So what if the most exciting thing about the new iPhone is that it’s gold—I won’t be able to do anything with more futuristic services anyway.” But with infrastructure catching up, it may be time for the front-end innovators to get in gear again.