Slideshow: iPad Does Remote Control--3 Apps Tested
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The firm, which utilizes a network of terrestrial cell towers, has installed its service on about one-third of all mainline domestic aircraft. The service enables passengers to surf the web and access and send e-mail, but they are blocked from making voice calls.
"This is a big milestone for our company and for consumers who want to stay connected at 30,000 feet," said Michael Small, president and CEO of Aircell, in a statement. "A few years ago Internet on a commercial flight was unheard of, and today it is commonplace."
Aircell has signed up most major U.S. airlines including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. AirTran outfitted its entire 136-aircraft fleet with the GoGo service several months ago.
A competing satellite-based service is offered by Row 44, which has trialed its system on Southwest Airlines' fleet. The Row 44 service, which has the advantage of operating over ocean expanses, is based on Hughes Network Systems' satellite technology.
In-flight Wi-Fi access has had a shaky history. Boeing pioneered the phenomenon with its Connexion service early in the decade, but its rollout was slowed by regulatory issues and by the cost of installing heavy satellite-based gear on its passenger jets. When Boeing discontinued the service in 2006, it reportedly had lost $1 billion on the effort.
Since then, regulations have loosened and lighter on-board equipment has been developed, easing the way for the service to be installed on passenger jets.
In Europe, OnAir's in-flight service not only offers web surfing, but passengers can also make voice calls due to a more lenient regulatory system.
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