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WiFi Coming to US Skies?

Are we finally going to get WiFi on planes in the U.S. next year? I'm hoping, but I'm not holding my breath.

American Airlines and newcomer Virgin America both say they will test WiFi on planes in 2008. Alaska Air has already announced WiFi plans. I say: "About time."

Seriously, I know that with the cost of fuel and fierce competition the airlines probably have a lot more on their minds than unwiring the friendly skies. Nonetheless, as someone who travels frequently, I know that the availability of WiFi is something that will influence my choice of airline, particularly on longer flights.

We have heard this all before mind you; I think people have been predicting WiFi on U.S. planes for several years now. However, if Lufthansa can do it, why not American Airlines?

I'm sure there will be plenty of technical issues on the way to the U.S. getting its WiFi wings and hopefully some kind of rate-limiting so that a few passengers near the access point don't get to hog all the bandwidth. Either way, I'm hoping for WiFi in the sky in 2008.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

AllKindsOfThings 12/5/2012 | 3:00:24 PM
re: WiFi Coming to US Skies? Dan,

last years the demise of Connexxion by Boeing has shown that you cannot run such a thing with a several hunderd strong team of dedicated folks and a very expensive satellite link - even if it worked reasonably well with the free vouchers some airlines handed out to passengers to at least make them try it.

WiFi on Planes is a complex issue in part because you can't just take your off-the-shelf hub and put in on board but you have to follow painstakingly detailed aircraft security regulations and procedures in all areagions your flight connect, compared to which even medical equipment approvals might be considered as not really strict.

Secondly, you need to have quite some satellite capacity in place to make the experience impressive, which very easily makes the overall offer financially tricky.

Another question is how many people would be not really entusiatic if their seat neighbors start using skype over their laptops, invading one of the few babble-free preserves that are (luckily) left - on the other hand is this restriction is given (no voice) how much would people want to pay when they cannot use voice, and how many will be left who find the service attractive.

If would be intersting poll to check what people could be intersted in and be willing to pay
- with or without voice option?
- per hour or as a one time fee par flight?
- or does it not really matter if such functionality was considered expendable as travel cost in the corporate world anyway?

In any case where someone does want to run voice, Skype would be a No-No considering how wasteful it is with regard to the radio bandwidth - the satellite backhaul for Skype over WiFI for Voice could easily ruin a business case.
joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:00:23 PM
re: WiFi Coming to US Skies? Its ppossible to block Skype and other VOIP apps though, or does that get more tricky when you're dealing with satellite connections?

DJ
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