I have been a guest of Emirates today at its network control centre in Dubai, I am currently on an Airbus A380 flying back to the UK.
There is Wi-Fi on this flight, which is connecting via satellite internet. Emirates charges just $5 for 20 Mb, which is not bad. I have been able to access Skype messaging and connect to the corporate VPN. The connection works, but it is not fast enough (Broadband Speed Checker failed to start) and is intermittent. However I have been able to connect to our Exchange Server and write this blog.
The network control centre manages the fleet of aircraft and the crew. The engineers have remote access to the aircraft in flight, allowing them to access telemetry data, reinitialise systems, or schedule replacement parts to be available at the destination airport.
Data from the flight is shared with suppliers, and fed into maintenance systems that use predictive analytics and forecasting to ensure the aircraft is kept operational and passengers are not delayed.