Mile High Internet Soon a Reality

August 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Numerous regular airline passengers are eager to get talking should new laws make it possible to dial out whilst in the air. But now it seems that the services available to frequent flyers won’t only be limited to phone calls – millions of passengers may soon be able to log onto the Internet via a new Wi-Fi service from Aircell.

Aircell is a small company that started life primarily as a maker of telephone systems designed specifically for small general aviation planes. The company, which is based in Itasca, Illinois, has since grown into a massive company that currently has around 225 employees. They have since been seeking ways to expand their services and have subsequently launched their new Wi-Fi aviation system. The system is especially noteworthy because the company won a key piece of spectrum in a 2006 federal auction that permits it to offer the service. And Aircell is receiving a lot of interest from various airlines who see the Wi-Fi as a lucrative opportunity. They plan to target mainly business travelers who want to stay connected regardless of where they are. Airline company, Delta, recently announced plans to offer the service on its domestic flights soon. It has already scheduled the first Aircell Wi-Fi system to be outfitted on its first aircraft just one month from now, with the ultimate goal of having its entire mainline domestic fleet completely outfitted by next summer. Of course the service won’t be cheap. Their tariff plan currently dictates that in-flight Wi-Fi will cost $9.95 for a flight lasting up to three hours, and $12,95 for flights that are longer.

But systems are not quite “go” at Aircell just yet. The system is still being proved and already the launch date had to be postponed from last year to this year. In addition to this, a number of airline companies are wary of investing in extra amenities with rising fuel costs cutting into their profits. The Wi-Fi system is currently installed in 15 American Airlines airplanes, which have been used to further test the system and iron out any bugs. Another factor that limits the service is that it relies on 92 ground towers which dot the United States. This means that the service is limited to the U.S. for now, but it could cover North America and the Caribbean by next year.

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