Why your in-flight Wi-Fi is slow and expensive: It’s all about the pipe

Gigaom

It has been five years since American Airlines first launched Wi-Fi on its domestic flights in the U.S. and, frankly, since that time, Wi-Fi on airplanes is still stuck on the runway. It’s expensive, slow and based on GoGo data, less than 10 percent of flyers even attempt to use the service, even if someone else is paying for it.

But there’s a new promise on the horizon, with a leaked memo showing that JetBlue plans to offer Wi-Fi on planes in 2013 from a new provider, a service that could offer up to 12 Mbps per passenger on a flight thanks to a new type of satellite. But this scenario is unlikely, and understanding why explains why Wi-Fi on planes costs so much and is relatively slow. It also offers lessons on the limits of wireless.

So as entitled as we might feel to the same Wi-Fi experience in…

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