Air Canada's two-class cabin on the A220 will have a total of 137 seats: 12 in a 2x2 configuration in Business Class and 125 in a 3x2 layout for Economy passengers. Every seat on the A220 features a Panasonic eX1 in-flight entertainment system with content available in 15 languages and featuring more than 1,000 hours of high-quality entertainment, including access to Bell Media’s premium entertainment service, Crave, and Canadian-based multi-platform audio service, Stingray. (CNW Group/Air Canada)

MIAMI – As the internet and mobile connections keep getting faster, technology and infrastructure continue to improve with practical solutions to suit the evolving needs of users.

Given the increased propagation of smartphones and other mobile devices, the demand for faster and more reliable networks has risen exponentially.

Internet connectivity and especially the reliability of networks has been an ongoing conundrum for airlines. Many surveys have shown that especially during long-haul flights, passengers are increasingly turning to online activities to entertain themselves.

Having access to quality WiFi is now regarded as one of the key in-flight entertainment services that passengers desire the most, although not all airlines have managed to implement reliable access.

Photo: Delta Air Lines.

4G and Ku-band

4G and Ku-band satellite connections have met this demand, for the most part, allowing passengers to access online streaming services with a certain level of reliability; however, in-flight gaming via the internet hs remained impractical due to the low latency of those connections.

Given the huge popularity of esports and online gaming these days in all their incarnations, from MOBAs to betting on sports events, it’s not hard to imagine there’s a demand amongst passengers who want to enjoy their favorite games, whether that’s the latest FIFA tournament or a few hands of online poker.

Thanks to the rapid implementation of 5G networks around the world, which are set to offer users connection speeds that can top out at around 10 gigabits per second, access to networks that are roughly a hundred times faster than 4G are now becoming available.

What’s more, the most impressive thing about 5G networks insofar as gamers are concerned is the low latency, which is comparable to land-based fiber connections.

Photo: Air Canada.

Playing games competitively is practically impossible

Playing some of the less intensive online games like Hearthstone is entirely possible with existing in-flight WiFi connections. However, if you wanted to play anything featuring lots of action and movement, especially competitively, then a high-speed internet connection with the lowest possible latency is absolutely essential.

This means that right now, playing action games like Fortnite, Overwatch, League of Legends or even FIFA online would be practically impossible.

There would simply be too much lag to make playing such games worthwhile, which is the frustrating aspect of the WiFi technology currently available to airline passengers – more so if they’re avid online gamers.

5G Ultra conectivity

Nevertheless, there are clear indications that over the next few years, airlines are actively working to implement systems that will make 5G more readily available to their passengers.

In 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance was formed as a collaborative initiative, uniting plane manufacturers, airlines, and 5G service providers.

Airlines that are participating in the initiative include Virgin Atlantic and Delta, with Airbus one of the founder members playing an important leadership role. Numerous mobile device manufacturers and network companies are also participating.

Their overall aim is to “create an improved passenger experience” that will eventually provide the “same level of connectivity they experience in their living room,” wherever they are flying in the world.

Due to 5G already having been fully implemented at airports such as Gatwick near London and Daxing in Beijing, along with many others around the world, it won’t be long before the 5G technology brings ultra-connectivity to serve the in-flight needs of passengers.

Indeed, those participating in current initiatives have projected that by 2025, the majority of planes in the sky will have 5G available. This will quite literally be a gamechanger for in-flight entertainment.