These guys sure are dedicated to making in-flight communications a reality for US fliers. As expected, Aircell is back on their feet following recent knockdowns by the FCC and FAA in the in-flight cellular service-ring. Jetsetters in the US won’t be able to get any cellphone service while flying high, but they can expect to have some seriously wireless broadband on American Airlines and Virgin American’s fleet.
Aircell’s new in-flight WiFi service, dubbed “gogo,” is being introduced in 15 of American Airlines’ Boeing 767 jets, while Virgin American is retrofitting their entire fleet with the necessary hardware to bring the 2Mbps broadband connection to their passengers. The service is a departure from other in-flight data connections that hook-up to satellites for their signal. Aircell’s gogo service uses antennas in the plane to pluck a 3Mbps data stream from 92 base-stations on the ground. The data is delivered through a modified version of Qualcomm’s EVDO Rev. A standard.
Wireless routers throughout the planes ensure that every passenger has wireless coverage and can take advantage of the 2Mbps data connection – made possible through compression and caching technologies.
If the trial goes well, American Airlines will roll-out the service in 500 of its planes. Virgin America is hoping to launch the service through its seat-back entertainment system in the future. Access to Aircell’s gogo service will cost $12.95 for cross-country flights, while data access on short-haul flights of 3 hours or less will cost $9.95.
Aircell says that its system can be modified to work with EVDO Rev. B and even LTE in the future, keeping the gogo service competitive and scalable in an ever-changing wireless landscape. They hope to eventually install 500 base-stations capable of connecting a quarter million airborne customers at the same time. And, Aircell is in talks to partner with services like iPass, T-Mobile HotSpot, and Boingo.
Virgin American may just be getting all my frequent flier miles once the service launches this Spring. At a price of about $10 per flight, the new gogo service sounds like a sure winner for many fliers. I’m crossing my fingers for American Airlines to hurry up and launch the service on more than just 15 planes – that’s a pathetic number.
Death to WiFi? Not in the skies…