Emirates want to make airline Wi-Fi free for all

Airline Emirates thinks we'll see free Wi-Fi on flights in the future, but there are a number of obstacles in the way preventing such services to be offered at no cost.

The industry is facing major challenges in the free Wi-Fi space, according to Sir Tim Clark, Emirates' president.

"If we can offer good quality Wi-Fi connections for everyone onboard at no charge tomorrow, we will do it," he said. "But we face a slew of technical limitations from speed and bandwidth availability and cost, to the supporting hardware and software all of which we are working hard to address with the industry right now."

Emirates launched Wi-Fi services on flights three years ago, and to date, more than a million passengers have taken advantage of the network.

The airline has now announced it will be investing $20 million (12.5 million) annually to install and operate inflight Wi-Fi, including subsidising services so passengers can use the internet for as little cost as possible.

At present, customers benefit from a free Wi-Fi connection for the first 10MB downloaded, then have to pay $1 (63 pence) for the next 600MB. The company aims to update its systems and network on its full fleet of 53 A380s and on selected Boeing 777s to offer free, unlimited Wi-Fi to all in the future.

Clark said: "It is a fact that our customers want onboard connectivity, and this demand is only going to increase as more people embrace an always-on' digital lifestyle, and carry smart mobile devices when they travel. We've always viewed Wi-Fi as a service and a value-added part of Emirates' overall product, rather than a revenue stream."

During October, the company saw a 200 per cent increase in the number of customers using Wi-Fi onboard because it offered the service for free to mark the Eid festival. This demonstrates the demand for free, unlimited internet on long-haul flights.

The most popular services being used on a flight are Skype, WhatsApp and BBM, research by the company revealed.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.