Canadian airlines to offer inflight WiFi

Air Canada will be the first Canadian airline to offer inflight WiFi services. Courtesy Air Canada. Air Canada will be the first Canadian airline to offer inflight WiFi services. Courtesy Air Canada.

Marlon Gomez
Biz/Tech Reporter

Canadian airlines will soon give travellers the convenience of staying connected to the Internet while traveling across North America.

Air Canada and WestJet Airlines LTR announced earlier this month they will be offering in-flight Internet connectivity.

Air Canada intends to implement the service by installing WiFi services to 30 narrow body aircrafts by the end of this year, said Peter Fitzpatrick, media spokesperson for Air Canada Ontario.

This would make Air Canada the first Canadian airline to offer this type of service. They plan on having all 130 planes ready by the end of 2015, said Fitzpatrick.

WestJet said in a news release that it would be able to equip one plane by fall of this year to begin testing.

“The test plane will fly throughout our network, as will each aircraft as it is equipped,” said Robert Palmer, a spokesperson for WestJet.

Air Canada has been running a pilot project since 2006 with the help of Gogo Inflight. Two planes were equipped for testing and flew between Toronto, Montreal and L.A, said Fitzpatrick.

Canadian airlines had not been able to provide this service because the infrastructure had not been completed in Canada, said Fitzpatrick.

“The system we are using requires ground towers. So there wasn’t a network of those across the country,” he said.

Ground based cellular technology and satellite technology are the two types of equipment used for Internet connections during flights, said Steve Nolan spokesperson for Gogo.

“Gogo provides both of those technologies and the ground based cellular technology is proprietary to Gogo only. We call that ATG, or air to ground. Air to ground is only available in the United states and Canada,” he said.

Air Canada and WestJet said they would be investing in satellite technology for international flights in the future.

WestJet will be working with Panasonic to launch an entertainment package that includes live TV channels, movies, magazines and Wifi. WestJet will be using satellite technology in order to provide these services.

“I would definitely use it. Every year my family goes on a trip during reading week and it would be nice to get some work done on the flight. Or just chat with my friends on Facebook,” said Jonathan Franco a second year Business Student at Humber College.

Internet speeds will vary depending on the technology being used by the airline.

“The peak speeds for Gogo’s next generation air to ground technology is 10 Mbps (megabits per second). And then the technology that they’re looking at using down the road on international fleets is a satellite technology that is capable of delivering 70 Mbps,” said Nolan. In theory, a passenger could download a two gigabyte movie in just over four minutes.

Nolan said Gogo would be in charge of managing the network once the project is up and running.

Prices for the service have yet to be disclosed.