Airplane WiFi Wireless Internet
Having in-flight Internet access will probably make flying enjoyable again for many. I haven’t personally experienced in-flight WiFi but look forward comparing EVDO based service by Aircell to satellite based service by Row 44 in the near future.
Aircell’s GoGo Airplane Internet Service
American Airlines, Delta, and Virgin America currently offer the service using Aircell’s GoGo service. Aircell has been authorized by the FAA and FCC to use cellular frequencies for inflight broadband communications. Based on a tech primer by Aircell from March 2007 the network is summarized below.
- 100 or fewer EVDO antennas across the US providing coast-to-coast coverage.
- AirCell broadband uses an EV-DO (Rev. A) air-to-ground link, which provides peak data rates up to 3.1Mbps from the ground to the airplane, and up to 1.8Mbps from the airplane to the ground.
- Usable Internet access but not high speed Internet as expected by users with 30Mbps Internet access at home.
Language from tech primer below acknowledging speed limitations of network architecture and GoGo service.
AirCell broadband will be fast enough to give you complete, unfettered access to the Internet without excessive load times. It will run regular e-mail programs with normal attachments just like you do on the ground. Itâ€™s not as fast as a T1 line feeding a large corporation, but in daily operations very few people would notice a difference in download times between the two â€“ and then, only when working with very large files. Participants that have demonstrated prototypes of the system in flight have been extremely happy with their experience.
Row 44’s Airplane Internet Service
Southwest and Alaska Airlines have selected Row 44. Unlike Aircell, who built a wireless network for inflight WiFi Internet, Row 44 purchases bandwidth from HughesNet. Bandwidth can be very high, much higher than the EVDO based network used by Aircell but HughesNet uses geosynchronous satellites (about 42,164 km from Earth) has always suffered from latency issues when used for two-way communications. Additional details from Row 44’s website about the broadband system are below.
- Data rates averaging 30 Mbps in the downlink direction (from the satellite to the aircraft) and 620 Kbps maximum in the uplink direction.
- System will allow full access to the Internet as well as VoIP services, cell phone roaming usage where allowed by government regulation as well as live TV using IPTV.
- The system weighs less than 150 lbs and can be installed in two overnights, with the plane re-entering revenue service between the overnights.
- Second multi-cast 45 Mbps receive-only channel can be provisioned using the same equipment for dedicated transport of IP television. The passenger will gain access to all these services via the airlineâ€™s in-flight entertainment system or their own devices through Wi-Fi access points onboard the aircraft.
American Airlines In-Flight WiFi Internet
Aircellâ€™s Gogo will be available to customers as a fee-based service in all cabins. Aircell will charge $12.95 on flights more than three hours, which include Americanâ€™s Boeing 767-200 flights. Each paid Gogo session includes full Internet access. Cell phone and Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services are not available.
Gogo turns an American Airlines flight into a Wi-Fi hotspot, enabling passengers to surf the Web, check any email, Instant Message, access a corporate VPN, and more. Once the aircraft has reached 10,000 feet, users can simply turn on their Wi-Fi enabled devices such as laptops, smartphones and PDAs, open their browsers and be directed to the Gogo portal page where they sign up and begin surfing. Gogo is powered by the Aircell air-to-ground (ATG) Broadband System, which runs over Aircellâ€™s exclusive nationwide network. [source]
Delta Airlines In-Flight WiFi Internet
Delta is joining with AircellÂ®, a 17-year leader in airborne communications for business and commercial aviation, to install the companyâ€™s Mobile Broadband Network on the carrierâ€™s domestic fleet. The system, Gogoâ„¢, will enable Delta customers traveling with Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as laptops, smartphones and PDAs, to access the Internet, corporate VPNs, corporate and personal e-mail accounts, as well as SMS texting and instant messaging services. Gogo will be available to customers for a flat fee of $9.95 on flights of three hours or less, and $12.95 on flights of more than three hours. [source]
Virgin America In-Flight WiFi Internet
Customized for Virgin America, the system is anticipated to allow guests to connect to the internet with the AirCell Broadband Service, using either their Redâ„¢ seatback video screens or their own wifi enabled portable gaming devices, laptops, PDAs or Smartphones. As such, in addition to the many entertainment choices currently offered by Redâ„¢ guests will be able to check and send web-email from their seatbacks through Redâ„¢’s TALK — the airline’s onboard chat system — using popular instant messaging services such as MSNÂ®, GoogleÂ® talk, Yahoo! Â® Skype, and AIMÂ®. [source]
Southwest Airlines In-Flight WiFi Internet
Southwest Airlines is pleased to announce its partnership with Row 44, and we intend
to deliver the highest bandwidth available to commercial airlines in the United States,â€ said
Dave Ridley, Southwest Airlinesâ€™ Senior Vice President of Marketing. â€œSouthwestâ€™s selection of
satellite technology will offer a more robust experience for more Customers per aircraft versus
other solutions available in the marketplace. [source]
Alaska Airlines In-Flight WiFi Internet
Alaska Airlines today announced it plans to launch inflight wireless Internet service next year based on Row 44’s satellite-based broadband connectivity solution. Alaska made the announcement in Toronto at the 28th Annual World Airline Entertainment Association Conference and Exhibition. The airline will test Row 44’s system on a next-generation Boeing 737 aircraft in spring 2008 and, based on the trial’s outcome, plans to equip its 114-aircraft fleet.
Unlike air-to-ground services, Row 44’s satellite-based system is designed to function over land, water and across international borders, enabling service throughout Alaska’s route system in Alaska, the Lower 48 states, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. [source]