Airborne Internet Making Another Comeback, But Will It Fly This Time?
from the holding-pattern dept
In-flight internet service on commercial planes is an idea that’s been kicking around for a really long time. But despite all the apparent interest in the service, nobody’s yet made it a successful business. Previous attempts have been dogged by high installation and service costs for airlines, which turned into high prices for end users that dampen enthusiasm and uptake. But in-flight internet access is apparently going to make another comeback early next year. A company called AirCell says its in-flight WiFi system costs just $100,000 per plane, weighs just 100 pounds and can be installed overnight — all important factors for airlines. It’s also offering airlines a cut of the service fees it collects, and says it won’t charge user more then $10 per day and will have roaming deals with popular hotspot networks. These all sound like significant improvements over previous failed efforts, and it uses air-to-ground radios instead of pricey satellite links. AirCell says it will block VoIP calls on the system — though it’s probably not to stave off complaints about chatty passengers, but rather because it also wants to provide paid in-flight cell phone service. Its efforts to make in-flight mobile phone use legal have stalled, so it’s now focusing on the internet aspect. While the company certainly appears to stand a better chance of success than earlier attempts at in-flight connectivity, the question remains of just how real the demand for such services is, and how willing travelers will be to pay for it.