The Wall Street Journal reported Colorado-based aeronautical communications company, AirCell, will be able to bring WiFi access to airplanes soon. The service will be carried over the frequency once used for air-phone service, which the company bought last year for $31.3 million at FCC auction. The connection will provide internet bandwidth equivalent to WiFi on the ground for devices including laptops and cell phones for no more than $10 a day, but will block VOIP services like Skype.
Airlines have tried this before. Boeing launched their own in-flight internet service, Connexion, only to have it go belly up last year. Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch had tried out the service in July 2005 during a flight to Europe.
Connexion was different from what AirCell has planned. It cost $30 for transcontinental service, allowed VOIP, and tranmitted data via satellite. AirCell is taking a terrestrial approach, transmitting data from a plane to a collection of 80 towers (expanding to 100).
AirCell’s required 100 pounds of electronics can be installed overnight for about $100,000. Airlines will recoup costs through revenue sharing with AirCell.