Will American Airlines In-Flight WiFi Succeed Where Others Have Failed?

The Chicago Sun-Timestakes a look at the difference between American Airline’s new in-flight WiFi service and other failed services that came before it. What will be the big difference? Technology. Unlike more pricey satellite services American will use technology that uses ground-based cellular phone sites to provide internet.

Rather than adding 1,000 lbs of gear to the plane, the ground-based internet service weighs 125 lbs, and shouldn’t require burning more fuel. From the Chicago Tribune:

American Airlines hasn’t yet set passenger rates for airborne Wi-Fi, but she said the goal is about $10 for a five-hour transcontinental flight, possibly with a premium charge “considering you’re using the Internet at 40,000 feet.” In contrast, she said Connexion would have charged about $30 for similar service.

Phillips [spokesperson] said AirCell services, with antennas on the underside of aircraft aimed at cellular towers six or seven miles away on the ground, cost $100,000 per plane and can be set up overnight while aircraft are on the ground. She said Connexion cost $1 million per plane, with antennas set up on the top of aircraft aimed at satellites 24,000 miles away.

She added that planes had to be grounded for a couple weeks to have the Connexion gear installed, resulting in revenue loss for the airlines.

Phillips also said that her company plans to block Skype and other internet-based calling features because “most air travelers find their neighbors phone chatter annoying.” Amen to that.

Will Wi-Fi in the sky fly? [Chicago Sun-Times]

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