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Satellite-based in-flight Wi-Fi soon to come on Spirit Airlines

By Jules Wang May 13, 2018, 11:12 pm

In the battle of the super-budget airlines, low fares can mean costly checked baggage, stiff seating and generally cruddy customer service. But one thing’s almost certain: if you’re paying less than $50 for a ticket, don’t expect Wi-Fi on your flight. Well, maybe except on one carrier soon.

US-based Spirit has announced that it has partnered with satellite internet provider Thales to launch Wi-Fi service on all of its planes by summer 2019.

It will utilize Ka-band spectrum from Thales’s existing network to provide speedy throughput on 97 percent of its routes. Spirit will also be able to take advantage of a new satellite dedicated to Ka-band beaming, scheduled to launch in 2021. Specifics on customer pricing are vague with Spirit mentioning demand- and route-based pricing with an average base price of around $6.50.

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Many US airlines rely on Gogo, which uses a mix of slower technologies such as air-to-ground and Ku-band satellite — it costs $7 for one hour’s use, though T-Mobile customers get a free hour just by entering their phone number. Mid-size budget carrier JetBlue relies on Ka-band satellites from Thales and Viasat for its free “Fly-Fi” service.

As mainstream carriers attempt to appeal to the penny-pinching crowds with lower fares and fewer amenities, will Spirit’s move put a counter against them? Perhaps, but other ultra-low-cost players may bite.

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