Filed under “Why didn’t we think of this first?”, a new concept is emerging out of the windy California desert. In a nutshell, airplanes would act as “mini-satellites” and create a flying network, capable of blanketing isolated areas with wireless coverage. The network would enable movie streaming during a flight, and maybe even the long rumored in-flight WiFi phone call. Even more promising, the network would enable rescuers to better locate a plane if they go missing.
While many communication firms have tried to figure out methods to cover remote areas with wireless coverage, the plane network may be the most cost efficient. After all, the planes are already covering these areas and the wireless investment would be a fraction of other proposed solutions.
Consider: airplanes land after only a few hours in flight, making upgrades and maintenance much more easy and efficient than satellites, which can stay in orbit for as many as twenty years. Another advantage is most airplanes fly between a high of 40,000 feet and a low of 20,000 feet, so they are not involved in the perpetual dance satellites are in as they dodge space junk.
Yet despite the obvious advantages, some experts are not convinced that a small startup can compete with social media behemoths like Facebook. Still the company, AWN, is promising to equip and test their system this month on two Boeing 757-200 airplanes that are currently parked in the Arizona desert. The next phase involves installing the specialized wireless equipment on a 20 plane network. The company announced a 1.2 million private placement investment last November.