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Broadband Deployment on Planes to Become Common

FCC adopts rules to standardize how it approves broadband operation on aircraft

The FCC has formalized rules to help speed the deployment of Internet services onboard planes.

Since 2001, the commission has authorized a number of companies to operate earth stations on aircraft communicating with Fixed-Satellite Service geostationary-orbit space stations.

Installed on the exterior of the aircraft, the satellite antenna carries the signal to and from the plane, providing two-way, in-flight broadband services to passengers and flight crews.

The commission’s recent Report and Order formalizes earth stations aboard aircraft — ESAA — as a licensed application in the Fixed-Satellite Service Fixed-Satellite Service and establishes a framework for processing applications while ensuring other radio service operations are protected from harmful interference.

Up until now, the commission has authorized ESAA on an ad hoc basis. Now, the commission’s approval process is streamlined.

Airlines will be able test their own systems to prove they meet FCC standards, establish that they do not interfere with aircraft systems, and then get FAA approval. The commission says the framework should allow the agency to process ESAA applications much faster.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said whether traveling for work or leisure, Americans increasingly expect broadband access everywhere they go and the new rules will help airlines and broadband providers offer high-speed Internet to passengers.