An improvement was made to the quality of an in-flight Wi-Fi service that only Asiana Airlines is offering among Korean airliners to such an extent that a video call can be made. However, it is said that the in-flight Wi-Fi service is in the toddler stage, compared to ground Wi-Fi services.
According to Asiana Airlines on January 11, the company has been operating four A350 airplanes which provide in-flight Wi-Fi and mobile phone roaming services since May of last year.
The paid Wi-Fi service is available for a fee of US$11.95 for an hour, US$16.95 for three hours and US$21.9 for a whole flight time. This means that a long-haul passenger who flies to London, England or San Francisco, the US from Incheon, Korea for 10 to 12 hours can enjoy using social network service (SNS) and mobile messengers with a smartphone for about 20,000 won (US$18).
"I made an attempt to make a video call to test the speed of the WiFi service with my mobile messenger in the airplane and could do so without difficulties in spite of some buffering,” an Asiana Airlines official said.
However, there is a significant gap between Wi-Fi download speed (40Mbps to 80Mbps) claimed by Asiana Airlines and actual service speed. "Asiana Airlines’s in-flight Wi-Fi speed hits 0.5Mbps to 1Mbps in upload and is 3Mbps in download," said an official of the aviation industry. “Asiana Airlines’s in-flight Wi-Fi speed may enable passengers to watch short video clips. The official said that there were an up to 160-fold gap in upload and an up to 26-fold gap in download. These speeds are far from the average speeds of commercial Wi-Fi speed (264.86Mbps) and public Wi-Fi speed (286.73Mbps) of last year in Korea.
As a result, Korean Air, the archrival of Asiana Airlines is considering offering in-flight Wi-Fi services, reversing its earlier stance that it was premature to start an in-flight Wi-Fi service. In the past, Korean Air had a negative stance on offering an in-flight Wi-Fi service due to the "speed" issue. However, it seems that Korean Air has backtracked from its position as its rival is offering the service and related technology is rapidly improving.
"On the part of airliners, there is no major technical constraint on providing in-flight Wi-Fi services," an industry representative said.