WiFi will soon again be taking to American skies. Boeing had
offered its Connexion WiFi service in the past, but customers just didn't warm
up to its pricing ($10 for one hour of access, $15 for two hours and $27
unlimited access). Boeing announced in August that it would discontinue the
service and began offering customers free WiFi access
from October 2 until Connexion was finally shut down on December 31.
It looks as though air travelers may once again have the
option to use WiFi aboard American airliners thanks to renewed
interest from airlines and communications providers. AirCell spent $31
billion USD in 2006 for a portion of the radio spectrum for cell phone and
AirCell also notes that the equipment necessary for
outfitting an existing airliner will only add 100 pounds and can be installed
overnight by airline crews. The downside, however, is that equipment costs are
likely to be around $100,000 USD per plane.
Luckily for air passengers who choose to use AirCell's
service, connection speeds and WiFi performance will be similar to existing
ground-based systems and discounts will be offered to customers of T-Mobile, iPass
and Boingo services. AirCell is also trying to avoid the pricing problems that
Boeing ran into with its Connexion service -- it will charge no more than $10
per day to passengers for unlimited service.
AirCell's WiFi service will include Internet, email, VPN, SMS and IM
access. The service will be available coast to coast and will offer
DSL-like speeds and AirCell will provide email receipts for business
While WiFi may be a viable option to air passengers in
the near future, don't bet on using cell phones in the air anytime soon.
Complaints from air passengers along
with FCC regulations have so far kept that idea at bay. And for those of
you thinking to use AirCell's WiFi connection to make VoIP calls while in the air,
guess again. The company says it will block VoIP services such as Skype through
Boeing recently nixed its idea to
provide wireless networking for its 787 Dreamliner. The wireless networking
equipment that it planned to use would have added 200 pounds to the weight of
the aircraft. The company instead decided to use wired networking which saves
roughly 150 pounds. The company was also worried about regulatory issues when
using wireless technology in certain countries.