In-Flight Internet in the EU

ean-onlineI’m on planes quite often and on many intercontinental flights, airlines are offering satellite Internet access these days. Unfortunately, quality over the years has significantly deteriorated, the satellites used for the service are probably quite busy these days or airlines artificially throttle throughput to save costs. Who knows… In the US, ground based Internet connectivity on short-haul flights has been available for many years but in the EU, there was nothing similar up to now. However, this is now changing, and when I recently flew from Dublin to Düsseldorf, I could try the new European Aviation Network (EAN) for the first time as a paying customer.

ean-detailsEAN is based on satellite communication and a dedicated ground based LTE network, which has probably a much higher capacity than the satellite leg. To convince customers, the first 10 minutes are free, after which I paid €3.90 with my credit card for connectivity with throughput limited to 150 kbit/s. With a bit of patience, that’s still acceptable for things like small web pages, messaging and email. I’m glad I use Selfoss to read news via RSS, as this is much more resource efficient and thus an extra bonus in this situation. In addition, pictures are only loaded on request so there was only a short waiting time when loading additional news bites.

I was also quite positively surprised that in addition to ports for web browsing and email, all ports required for xmpp messaging were also open. One thing that was, strangely enough, not working, was ‘Tusky’, my favorite app on my smartphone for Mastodon. At first I thought that perhaps a port other than 443 would be used for communication. When I later ran a Wireshark trace, I saw, however, that this was not the case. So something else must have been the reason why it was not working. O.k., I’ll start tcpdump on the device next time before boarding.

Another positive thing to mention at this point is that connectivity was available without any outages throughout the 1.5h flight right up to a minute or so before the landing. Should I have a bit more room and time on my next trip with in-flight Internet access over Europe, I’m very much looking forward to run the exercise again with a more expensive package to see how fast things can really be over the clouds with a satellite + ground based system.

Note: I work for one of the companies involved in EAN. I am not involved in this project, however, and the opinions mentioned in this post are my own.