Emirates just put out a press release titled “Emirates’ US-bound passengers soon to have Wi-Fi, mobile connectivity and Live TV over the North Pole.” They’re leaving out one important detail, and also have a different definition of “soon” than I do.
Emirates Wi-Fi disruptions on polar routes
If you’ve ever flown Emirates to/from North America and the flight took a polar routing you may have noticed that Wi-Fi cut off for several hours around the middle of the flight, as you fly over the North Pole.
This is because the satellites that connect aircraft are geostationary, and are located over the equator, so the aircraft antennae can’t see the satellite when that far north due to the earth’s curvature.
Emirates is working with Inmarsat to address this, though it’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds.
What Emirates & Inmarsat are doing
Emirates is partnering with Inmarsat to solve this problem by adding two elliptical orbit satellites, which should provide coverage over the North Pole by 2022. This will allow customers to enjoy Wi-Fi and live TV over these regions.
There are two issues here:
- I wouldn’t exactly call 2022 “soon,” especially in the context of a press announcement from an airline
- As far as I know Emirates only has a partnership with Inmarsat for their soon to be delivered 777Xs, so I don’t believe this would apply to their current 777s and A380s, which feature OnAir and Panasonic
Emirates & connectivity
Emirates is both a leader and frustrating when it comes to the connectivity they offer.
On the plus side, Emirates offers live TV on all Boeing 777s and most A380s, which is pretty awesome. Furthermore, they offer free Wi-Fi, though with limits.
Emirates notes that their customers make over one million Wi-Fi connections every month, which sure is a lot.
Emirates has long been a leader when it comes to offering free Wi-Fi. The airline offers Wi-Fi on all planes, and all customers receive 20MB of free data. On top of that, Skywards elite members and first and business class passengers receive higher complimentary allowances.
The catch is that Emirates has slow Wi-Fi. It’s offered by OnAir and Panasonic (depending on the plane), and the speeds on both the A380 and 777 are bad. So while I appreciate that they’re offering free Wi-Fi, I really wish they’d improve the Wi-Fi speeds that are available.
It sounds like Emirates’ 777Xs should feature faster Wi-Fi speeds than what’s currently offered, which is great. Furthermore, it’s nice that they’re working on offering connectivity over the North Pole.
The problem is that as far I know this will just apply to 777Xs, and won’t apply to their current planes.