Wi-Fi on flights is, to put it mildly, less than ideal and most likely not worth the price of admission. Part of the problem is technical: the FCC only allocates a sliver of available spectrum to air-ground connectivity. And while there is talk about opening additional frequencies to alleviate the problem, another obstacle looms: to access these new bandwidths, a parabolic antenna is required. Unfortunately, airlines have been ruthlessly cutting down on the weight and drag coefficients of their aircraft in a never-ending effort to reduce fuel consumption and cut costs. They are not likely to want to bolt a dish antenna to the top of each of their jets to give passengers a decent Wi-Fi signal.

A solution may have presented itself, however. According to an article in WIRED0, Kymeta, a communications company, has invented an antenna that is 20-40 inches in diameter but, most crucially, less than half an inch thick. Called the “mTenna,” the octagonal-shaped device has no moving parts and can be electronically configured to point at any satellite. The mTenna is also frugal when it comes to power: it can run off of a single USB cable. Kymeta is aiming for widespread mTenna use by the airline industry within three to five years.

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