First In-flight Wi-Fi fails due to “budget constraints”

Digital Content

Mobile operator Vodacom, South African budget airline Mango and Internet service provider Wireless-G teamed up last week to bring the country and the Southern Hemisphere one step further to in-flight wifi.

Over a hundred guests boarded the maiden Wi-Fi flight in Lanseria, just outside Johannesburg, to take to the skies while staying in contact with friends and family on the internet. But the excitement was only limited to a few passengers, as 70% of the eager surfers were unable to connect to the network.

WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe said most of the passengers couldn’t connect to the Wi-Fi network due to budgetary constraints when it came to the allocation of IP addresses. He explained that the system at the moment is designed to provide each passenger with one IP address, and if there are more devices on board connecting to the network than passengers, some won’t be able to use the service.

“The system is configured to allocate 128 IPs for passengers. Yesterday, while there were 115 passengers on board, many of them had multiple devices and we saw three times the allowed connections, with hundreds of IP addresses constantly requesting access. This was not a technical or hardware problem, but rather a case of tech-hungry individuals with a desire to test the service to its limits,” he said.

But users should be aware that not all devices will connect successfully, with Apple and Samsung devices leading the pack for the most successful connections. Van der Merwe added that BlackBerry products had the least amount of successful connections, as some users still make use of version 5 BlackBerry’s operating system.

“According to our information, 50% of South Africans still have these old devices. As the system goes on and people begin to learn how it works, they will become more compatible with it. We cannot budget for all devices,” he concluded.

There are three different options available for passengers who wish to make use of the service, and start at as little as R50 for a single flight. Passengers will be able to buy a one-day pass for R90, or a per-minute option, billed through G-Connect’s online account.