updated 04:35 pm EDT, Tue April 3, 2007
US Airline Wi-Fi in 2008
US airline passengers will soon have the option of wireless Internet in their cabins, thanks in part to developments by Colorado-based AirCell. The company says it has snapped up unused frequencies from the FCC that would let it create a Wi-Fi hotspot in airplane cabins, allowing notebooks as well as properly-equipped handhelds such as the iPhone to access the Internet mid-flight. While the service would block VoIP calls for courtesy reasons, speed would be roughly equivalent to what users can see on the ground, AirCell says.
Importantly, the service is said to be much less expensive than Boeing's now defunct Connexion service. As the system is relatively cheap to deploy and splits the revenue with airlines, a passenger would have access for $10 per day. The plan could also tap into existing subscriptions with land-based Wi-Fi hotspots from Boingo, T-Mobile, and others, letting their users connect at a lower rate.
AirCell is currently negotiating deals with several US airlines and hopes to launch its first offerings early next year, though it has yet to name its first partner.