Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Surfin' the Jet
Good news for all you traveling writers. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. airlines will begin offering in-flight Internet connections early next year. Personal cell phone use may not be too far behind, although there are more issues involved. Some folks aren’t too keen on the idea of cell phone use. Imagine the loud conversations throughout the cabin. However, with current technology, the article reports, only about fourteen people could chat on a cell phone at one time. The fifteenth caller would get a “no service” message.
AirCell paid $31.3 million at an FCC auction last year for radio frequency that can be reallocated to Internet and cell phone service. The Internet service has already been approved by the FCC and the FAA. AirCell says it will cost about $100,000 to outfit a plane with WiFi hotspots in the cabin, and the job can be done overnight.
The reason airlines like this deal is that they’ll share revenue with AirCell. The service will be sold at no more than $10 a day, and will offer discounts and tie into existing services like T-Mobile, etc. Internet speed is supposed to be as fast as on the ground.
As for cell phones, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin seems to be in favor of keeping the ban in place. A two-year investigation into possible interference with ground tower has proved inconclusive. And apparently Martin has already received many complaints about the possible use of cell phones. Meanwhile in Europe cell phone usage has been approved from a telecommunications perspective but still awaits approval from air-safety regulators, who’ve been studying whether they would interfere with aircraft navigation equipment.
Personally, I could take a pass on the cell phone thing. But Wifi? Bring it on!