Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wi-Fi on U.S. Flights

in-flight wi-fiAccording to Computerworld, one-third of all U.S. flights are now Wi-Fi friendly. This could make air travel time pass much more quickly, and it could also be very advantageous to those who travel often on business.

Virgin Flights and AirTran can boast that they offer on-board Wi-Fi on every single one of their planes. It will cost you anywhere from $4.95 to $12.95. The New York Times claims that Delta features the most planes with Wi-Fi access though. Nearly all of their 500 different planes offer their travelers Gogo-based Internet access. Gogo is an in-flight Internet service that provides coverage for Air Canada, AirTran, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin America.

JetBlue and Continental Airlines are currently testing out Wi-Fi on their planes, and all other airlines seem to have at least some form of Wi-Fi available on a number of their planes. Southwest Airlines only has Wi-Fi on 6 of their 540 planes as of now, but they claim that they will have all of their planes outfitted with Wi-Fi connectivity by 2012. Alaska Airlines only has Wi-Fi access on a few of their planes as well, but they say that by the end of the year all of their planes should have access.

The two main in-flight Wi-Fi providers are Aircell’s Gogo in-flight service and Row 44’s Ku-band system. Aircell is ground-based. They use cell phone towers to transmit Wi-Fi throughout the sky. Because Aircell has ground-based service, it limits its Wi-Fi range to the U.S., but as long as you are flying within the country, you’re set with great service from Aircell. Row 44 mounts an antenna to the plane using the Wi-Fi. The antenna then connects the plane to HughesNet satellite Internet service.

It's great that Wi-Fi is finally showing up prominently in the air. It will make flights so much more enjoyable. By 2012, when Southwest features Wi-Fi access on all of their planes, I’m sure that most airlines will have followed in their footsteps. Sooner than later, Wi-Fi access will be completely standard on all airlines.

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