We've been covering the world of in-flight Internet access a few times these past months. Last Tuesday, August 5th, the airline company Delta Air Lines [DAL] announced that it will offer WiFi on all domestic mainline flights beginning next year. Delta’s entire domestic fleet will be outfitted by the end of 2009. “Our customers asked for in-flight connectivity, and we’re responding by rolling out the most extensive Wi-Fi network in the sky. Beginning this fall, our passengers will have the ability to stay connected when they travel with us throughout the continental U.S.,” said Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive
Wifi will be available in first and economy class for laptops, PDA’s, smart phones, and portable gaming devices. A flat fee of $9.95 will be charged on flights of three hours or less, and $12.95 on flights of more than three hours, which is inexpensive even compared to many Internet cafes. Delta’s internet speeds are promised to be similar to DSL.
Delta uses airborne communications provider Aircell’s Gogo wifi service. “The advent of Air-To-Ground (ATG) technology has made broadband connectivity in the cabin economically viable for the first time for commercial airlines,” said Jack Blumenstein, President and CEO of Aircell.
“The Aircell broadband system is based on the latest-generation (3G) cellular technology, with a network of specialized cell sites on the ground communicating with aircraft in flight. An access point on the airplane will connect to your wireless device and route that communication to one of our ground sites.”
The Aircell system is cost-effective, small, light, and can be installed in planes overnight. Past options for in-flight internet were proved too expensive for users ($20-$30 and hour).
Aircell, located in Broomfield, CO, paid $31.3 million in for its exclusive radio spectrum license in a 2006 FCC auction. The company is in negotiations to expand its network, currently covering the continental United States, and is in negotiation to expand into Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
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