AirCell Powers American & Virgin Airlines

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Several US carriers have committed to fleet trials of in-flight video, texting or WiFi in their domestic operations.

They include Alaska Airlines (Row 44, single-aircraft trial), American Airlines (AirCell, 15-aircraft trial), Continental (LiveTV, 737 and 757 fleet fits), JetBlue (LiveTV, single-aircraft trial), Southwest (Row 44, four-aircraft trial) and Virgin America (AirCell).

The website for Aircell, called, just launched. It expects to supply WiFi to American Airlines and US Airways in the first half of this year using terrestrial cell antennas (that point up).

According to Om Malik, the initial phase, 15 of American Airlines’ 767s will be broadband-enabled; it plans to eventually take that number to 500. Aircell wireless service is expected to cost $12.95 for cross-country flights and $9.95 for flights of three hours or less. Virgin, by comparison, wants to provide broadband access to every seat via its back-seat system, also using Aircell.

Aircell expects to deploy about 500 antennas, enough to cover the entire country and support as many as 250,000 broadband users.

Connexion by Boeing, a joint wireless between Boeing, American, Delta, and United, folded in 2006 after onboard equipment proved too expensive and heavy. The $30 fee for access was too pricey for many passengers.

Satellites are really the only answer for international flights.

OnAir, formed in 2005, is owned by an airline-owned provider of IT solutions and Airbus. It uses Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband service (above), enabling WiFi access as well as GSM mobile phones that support international roaming.

SwiftBroadband uses the narrow spot-beams of the Inmarsat-4 satellites. Initially accessible
over the Indian and Atlantic Ocean regions, it will be available globally, except the extreme polar regions, following the successful launch of the third I-4 satellite. SwiftBroadband became operational last October and is available through distribution partners MVS, OnAir, Stratos and Vizada. The third Inmarsat-4 satellite, covering the Pacific, is scheduled to launch in March-April 2008 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Panasonic Avionics is the world’s leading supplier of in-flight entertainment equipment, including music, video on demand, in-flight shopping, phone service, email, video games, and GPS flight location display. PAC is an approved supplier to both Boeing and Airbus. Their main competitors include Thales Group, Rockwell Collins, and LiveTV.

But the airlines must now tackle the issues of etiquette, openness and free speech, points out the Associated Press.

“This gets into a ticklish area,” says Vint Cerf, one of the Internet’s chief creators and generally a critic of network restrictions. “Airlines have to be sensitive to the fact that customers are seated close together and may be able to see each other’s PC screens. More to the point, young people are often aboard the plane.”

Panasonic Avionics is testing airborne services on Australia’s Qantas Airways, designed to block sites on “an objectionable list,” including porn and violence, says David Bruner, executive director for corporate sales and marketing. Panasonic says that the launch customer for its Ku-band satellite service, to be launched this year, is a US carrier.

Blogrunner and In Flight Online track the different approaches to deliver airplane broadband.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Aircell Vs Row44: Two for Two, FlyFi Takes Off, Lufthansa & AA Trying WiFi — Again, Inflight Phones Banned by FAA?, AirCell on Virgin by 2008, Wireless Voice on Airplanes? Yes & No, AirCell Demos Inflight WiFi, Aircell for Planes, FCC Rules on Airplane Cellular, Connexion On Again?, Dis Connexion, Connexion Dying, AirFone Dead, Airplane Internet Auction Over, Airplane Wireless Auction (Virtually) Over, AirCell Demos Inflight WiFi and Connexion Press Junket.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 at 1:59 pm .

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