Will In-Flight Boredom End Soon?

Being “grounded” may not be a prerequisite for fast Internet access and streaming ability much longer. The Federal Communications Commission is now considering proposals to free up airways used by the satellite industry, an issue that will be voted on in its initial stages Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) is moving forward on a proposal it has been lobbying since 2011. Explaining in a regulatory filing that in-flight Internet is currently too expensive with limited data service, Qualcomm wishes to provide a service that could “allow travelers to stream high-quality video with ease, meaning they wouldn’t have to rely on airlines’ limited menus of in-flight movies.”

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Most major airlines have already been selling Internet for a number of years, facilitating a steady influx of revenue. However, the slow speed of this Internet and its inability to support today’s Web applications that require more data have led Qualcomm to seek alternatives. Its interest in becoming the main equipment provider for Wi-Fi network is expected to meet with resistance from satellite companies that use the same airspace, but Gogo Inc., the main Internet provider for major U.S. Airlines, supports the proposal.  Gogo only has limited access to a small number of airwaves and could bid on new airwaves from Qualcomm.

Though there is an eagerness to move forward with the proposal, Thursday marks only the first step of a process that could take multiple years. Commissioners are to vote on the opening of the issue to public comment.

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