With European carriers joining the race to provide connectivity to the air, I had some time in the air with the Finnair connectivity solution – Nordic Sky.
Finnair uses the same brand on both its short and long haul operations, with the long haul service powered by Panasonic aboard the Airbus A350 family, and the short-haul network using a Viasat based solution.
I’ve looked at the Panasonic solution in the past, so it’s time to look at the Viasat solution.
The equipment is being rolled out onto Finnair’s Airbus A320 family fleet have been fitted with Viasat equipment.
In use – it’s very simple. Hit the Nordic Sky Portal on your device of choice, open up a browser to the Nordic Sky site, and off you go.
The portal itself has some free to access content, including papers, destination information and the Finnair Duty Free pre-order catalogue.
When accessing the service to pay for internet access, Finnair offer two solutions:
- A Streaming package, allowing you stream video and audio and with VPN access – €12.95 or 4,500 Finnair Plus points
- A Browse package, for €6.95 or 2,400 Finnair Plus Points
Showing how the market is evolving, as well as paying by points, you can pay by Credit Card or Alipay (part of the Chinese company Alibaba).
Before you connect – there’s a very important feature of where you can or where you cannot connect.
And there are a few black spots – some regulatory, some otherwise.
- Parts of Russia
- Parts of Belarus
- The North Sea
- The North Atlantic
- …. and so on.
These are important – because, the last thing you want to do is buy internet access – only for it to disconnect when it enters a rogue area.
Connecting to the service was easy enough – and after a short wait.. I was live.
Once in the air, I got the SpeedTesting tools out. We’re promised up to 15mbs to the seat. Does it deliver?
A solid 14mb+. Close enough. But how did it feel when using it? Well, I did a variety off things whilst in the air – caught up with email, uploaded pictures for a post that went out later that day, edited a few tweets, viewed a few websites, browsed Instagram and so on
It felt snappy to the use – with uploads being the expected slowness you get in the air, whilst retrieving information was pretty snappy. I didn’t test the results on a laptop (on my phone only as laptop power is an issue when you’ve been a lounge, and forgot to plug your laptop in.
The one thing to be aware of is the dead signal zones – and there was one in my flight path right over the middle of the north sea. I found the explanation Finnair gave as interesting to say the least.
At least you can head back to the Nordic Sky portal and see where your plane is and how long you’re going to be out of Internet connectivity for.
The solution – like the American Airlines solution – is a gate-to-gate service, meaning you can use it for the entire flight. And i used it pretty much until the plane arrived at the gate.
Overall: There is a value proposition in connectivity. Personally – if a flight is under two hours, I tend not to buy as that’s time I can use for resting or sleeping – and unless a flight pass works out useful across a network of flights, then the costs mount up – rapidly. At €6.95 for just under 3 hours, I found the Finnair service well priced, and offered the bandwidth I need in a surfing package for the 3 hour flight.
As the In-Flight connectivity market matures, airlines are pondering their next steps. We’ve gone from a short time from ATG (Air to Ground), to L Band (which is used on some long haul planes still unfortunately), to Aviation grade Ku satellite, and to the high performance era of 2Ku, Ka and GX (Inmarsat Global Express).
Add in the addition of the European Aviation Network (based on GX and 4G base stations), there are some good days for connectivity ahead – and maybe drive down the cost too.
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