How Does Airplane WiFi Work?

Our dependence on the internet for entertainment has risen tenfold. This is because the internet gives us so many opportunities for us to indulge ourselves that, no matter how picky we are about content, it will always provide us with something that interests us. While some people like to listen to their best-loved music on YouTube, others like to watch the preferred episodes of their favorite television shows on Netflix. A lot of others like to see a movie on a streaming platform. Book lovers can also use the internet to get access to e-books.

Another thing everyone can use the internet for is to keep up-to-date with the news. And there is no way we can forget social media when discussing opportunities for entertainment that social media provides. Here is a figure that will show you just how dependent we are on social media: the average social media user is on social platforms for more than a couple of hours each day. Take out sleeping, eating, commuting, and working, a couple of hours actually totals up to be half of your life! Yet another figure that will shock you is that approximately four billion people use social media. To put things into context, that is approximately half of the world’s population!

When we are so dependent on the internet for entertaining ourselves, there is a lot of reason for us to want to have it on the plane as well. After all, what is more boring than being stuck in an airplane seat? You cannot work on your laptop because it’s too nauseating and you cannot even play board games with the people around you as that is just how airplane seating is structured. Prior to the introduction of airplane WIFI, riding on an airplane was, indeed, difficult, because it brought with it unparalleled boredom. Thus, the creation of airplane WiFi was very welcomed as it allowed people to get entertained. Long-haul flights which previously made people miserable now seemed bearable. After all, looking at what shenanigans the characters of your favorite television show are up to is better than looking at the lights on the ceiling of the airplane!

As airplane WiFi has contributed to the lives of humans all around the world, there has been an increase in the number of conversations taking place on it. While some discuss how slow it is compared to the normal internet available to us, others spend their time thinking about whether it would ever get as good and fast as the likes of Xfinity internet. Yet another section of the population discusses how airplane WIFi even works. To help answer this question, we will be telling you the secret behind airplane WiFi. Some of this is very technical but we have tried our best to explain concepts in the simplest of manners.

Types of Plane WiFi

There are two types of plane WiFi in the world:

Air-to-ground WiFi:

Air-to-ground WiFi works in a similar fashion to how our mobile operates. Below the body of the plane, there is an antenna. This antenna receives signals from cell towers on the surface of the planet. Notice that that is exactly how your phone also receives signals from cell towers. Just like your phone sometimes acts as a hotspot for other devices you have, the airplane also acts as a hotspot to give all of its passengers an internet connection. The big bummer when it comes to plane WiFi is that it does not work when there are no cell phone towers underneath. Thus, if you are traveling from a country in North America to a country in Europe or beyond and vice versa, you will not be able to get connected to the internet. After all, how can there be a tower in the Atlantic Ocean!

Satellite WiFi

Just like air-to-ground WiFi bounces signals off of the cell phone towers underneath, a satellite WiFi uses signals from a network of satellites. Whenever a plane is flying it is catching signals from the satellite that is most near the plane. As there are a lot of satellites in space, the plane does catch satellite signals more often compared to the air-to-ground signals coming from the cell towers on Earth.


We are optimistic that this article has helped you better understand how internet signals reach airplanes.

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