by Carlo Longino

Wait Goes On For In-Flight Internet

from the holding-pattern dept

The idea of selling in-flight internet access seems like such a no-brainer: you've got people in an enclosed environment, plenty of whom are carrying laptops and are shut off from the outside world, whether it's from work emails or their IM buddy list. Still, nobody's been able to make it work: Tenzing never really got off the ground, while Boeing has now announced it will shut down its Connexion in-flight internet service by the end of the year. This isn't a huge surprise, as only a handful of airlines had adopted the service and usage was apparently pretty low. After 9/11 and the subsequent downturn in the US airline industry, no US airlines were willing to spend the $500,000 per plane to install the Connexion equipment, while users balked at paying up to $30 per flight for the service. It's hard to know if the assumed level of demand simply doesn't exist, or if it's a problem with pricing. In any case, with fuel prices hitting airlines' finances and causing them to shed weight on planes any way they can, and the potential impact of of new security rules on traveling with laptops, in-flight internet looks like it will remain grounded for the time being. Still, other companies are showing some interest in trying to make it work (again), while other airlines are looking to in-flight cellular calls as a new revenue stream. The technology isn't the issue here -- by all accounts, Connexion worked well, and in-flight cellular tests are going well -- but nobody's yet come up with a workable business model.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    TriZz, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 11:41am


    See how Terrorism effects the internet. Gas prices rise - so we can't add the extra weight to the plane, thus eliminating the ability to fill the tubes from 30,000 ft.

    ...just like the last story.

    For me, it's a matter of price. I'd love to surf the web for the x amount of time in the air - anything to get my mind off of needing a cigarette, or the non-attractive lady sitting next to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Grrr..., Aug 17th, 2006 @ 11:47am

    Angry Consumer

    In theory they could provide this service for free to fliers. I'm sure there's some countries that already do. But this comes back to how ignorant us Americans are and how unreluctant we are to FORCE change on industry that holds us back.

    I swear, if we could get as much effort as what's put out by the mindless drones who clap and roar at Jon Stewart so much as breaking wind and put that towards the consumers of this country demanding what we want (service comparable to other countries AT LEAST)

    Man, we might just have something there... have Jon Stewart or Colbert lead thier droves of retards out to these places and have them protest. Hell, they hardly understand why they clap in the audience, I'm sure they'd riot if told to as well.

    And no, I'm not a repub, I just hate puppets...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Jeff, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 12:02pm

    OK, get back on the meds...

    #2, that type of argument is called ad hominem, look it up.

    Anyways, the airlines got the right idea with inflight directTV, $5.00 x 100 people that $500 per flight instead of $30.00 per flight x 5 people =150.00. and that's only if there are 5 people who can get their company to pay for it, because no one in their right mind would spend $30.00 for strong bad videos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    craig, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 12:14pm

    would file sharing during a flight be considered a terrorist act?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Mike4, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 12:25pm

    Let's keep in mind that all the geeks who come here - myself included - love the idea, so it's hard for us to understand why this isn't happening.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Rob, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 12:32pm

    #2, YOU SUCK!

    Colbert and Stewart rock. If you didn't have your head up your ass you'd be laughing too. They take the news and put a comical, enjoyable spin to it making it fun to watch instead of that boring ass repetitive CNN bullshit. Fuck You, damn puppet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Tom, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 12:36pm

    You can live without internet for X hours.

    I wonder if I'd make other passengers uncomfortable playing my XYZ favorite counter-terrorists FPS?


    ... On another note the instant messaging capabilities between 2 different in-flight 747's sure could make for some new and interesting terrorist acts.

    Couldn't you fit a nice chunk of plastique in place of one of those extended-life laptop batteries? Just imagine an #irc channel with a dozen folks all awaiting a single keyphrase as a dozen planes near landing.

    Or just do without the internet for a few hours and dont sweat it you internet crackheads.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 12:49pm

    I would rather they just give us more elbow room. My knees already have to be wedged behind the seat in front of me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 1:00pm

    An interesting business model is to supply not only broadband access on a plane but also a built in terminal for which to access different things. If travelers can't bring laptops on board, why not supply it to them (for a fee of course.)

    As for the airlines spending money on broadband at no additional cost to consumers, are you serious? Never happen. They are in enough trouble as it is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Aidan, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Angry Consumer

    I agree that they could provide for 'free' - which would actually involve spreading the cost over all passengers by a small increase in ticket prices.

    I have no idea what Jon Stewart or his so called 'drones' have to do with it though..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 1:15pm

    Re: You can live without internet for X hours.

    ahhahaha... i can picture it now... the unsettled look of everyone when they hear and explosion come from my laptop and then "Terrorists win" ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Angry Consumer

    Aiden, if you spread it out over everyone, then it isn't free. Why should the person who plans to go to sleep have to pay extra so you can watch TV or play video games?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Tom, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re: You can live without internet for X hours.

    For real.... cause everyone knows you can run faster when you're holding a knife!


    BEEP....... BEEP........BEEP........

    BEEP.. BEEP.. BEEP..


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Dan, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Angry Consumer

    #2 I think you're ignorant about the way markets work. Why would/should a company exist just to make YOU feel comfortable? Companies are in business to make profit. If you want something for "free" I suggest you go to Cuba or North Korea, where they're currently trying the "free" system.

    Airlines can't even make money with their existing models, let alone adding additional, unneeded expenses to their financial statements.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    bendodge, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 1:47pm


    Put a WLAN hub on a plane. Then use a satellite like V3 to get Internet access, and put it to the wireless router.

    The only problem would be if 2.4 GHz signal interfere with the instruments, which it shouldn't, because 2.4 is used all over, and the chances of a plane encountering it are high already.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    achmed, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 3:24pm

    okay mohammed

    IM from Achmed: mohammed? you ready

    IM from Mohammed: Yes. We go now.

    Great idea. Give the towelheaded terrorists MORE tools to use

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Conpu, Aug 17th, 2006 @ 4:25pm

    Re: WLAN

    Well...that's exactly what Boeing does. I've had the pleasure of using this service every month when I go between Washington Dulles and Copenhagen on Scandinavian Airlines. Works like a charm, it sucks if they are pulling the plug on it.

    I don't really understand why price should be such an issue. If you are paying $1500-$2000 for the ticket in the first place, adding $25 to get a couple of hours of work (mostly email in my case) in is something I think most employers would pony up. If they don't, get another job as they obviously have there heads up in...wherever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Dan, Aug 18th, 2006 @ 7:36am

    Bad Idea for Users

    I would never use an Internet connection supplied by an airline. I'd be on the plane reading about my favorite hobby, physics. The a$$hole sitting next to me will see that I'm reading an article about how heavy water is used to enrich uranium and will squeele like a pig. Next thing you know I'm being force fed enemas by two goons from homeland insecurity. Welcome to the land of the free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Dan, Aug 18th, 2006 @ 7:38am

    BTW, the Dan in the prior comment isn't the Dan in comment 14. Just same name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Michael Urlocker, Aug 20th, 2006 @ 3:45pm

    Ignore research data; Pay attention to what people

    Perhaps one of the lessons from Boeing's experience is related to market research.

    Surveys said people wanted this service. Yet if you watch what most people do on airplanes, the priorities seem to be:
    Eat, sleep, drink, watch movie, iPod, etc.

    Also, Boeing bet the farm with $1B invested before they understood what customers really wanted. Looked like a sure thing. But that level of investment meant they had to be right and couldn't adjust as they went.

    Our Disruption Scorecard shows two flaws in Boeing management's approach.

    More at:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Chap, Sep 25th, 2007 @ 12:58pm


    My problem is battery time. Regularly fly 9 hour flights, but only got two hours of battery time. So I'd like power supply as well as in-flight internet. Not gonna happen...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    ITstudent, Oct 6th, 2007 @ 9:26pm

    if you don't consider the securtiy risks, internet on board flights seems like a great idea, especially with the amount of flyers increasing. if there is some businessmen onboard, internet will be an invaluable asset to them. Now with globalised companies, many people need to constantly travel for business. $30 will be nothing to them if they get paid $100 an hour.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    John, Oct 25th, 2007 @ 7:26am

    in flight broadband

    Couple of factual points (as I understand them).
    AirCell's cellular based air-to-ground technology is orders of magnitude cheaper to insall and operate than Connexion's satellite based service. About $100k to install (vs. $500k or more for satellite systems). Passenger price is estimated about $10, not $30 like Connexion. No cell phone service will be available, so no listening to passengers talk for 6 hours while on a transcon flight. VoIP (e.g. Skype) will be blocked too, for passenger comfort. Airlines are not in favor of offering voice service either. So voice communication is not a likely feature in the near future. Some European and other foreign airlines are experimenting with voice service in flight. Its future there is TBD. - Source: AirCell PR guy. Trying to separate fact/fiction/hype as best I can. Cheers. - John

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.