In-Flight Wi-Fi

We’ve been hearing about the possibility for quite a while. The ability to use the Internet via Wi-Fi while you’re flying across the country is actually here. Virgin America has added the Wi-Fi service to its already computer-friendly flights. They have electrical outlets under every seat, and seatback systems where you can text-chat with other passengers.   

I read about this from my favorite Wireless Networking News.  Glenn Fleischman not only reported the announcement, he actually used the service and could vouch for it’s speed and reliability.  I especially like the photo of passengers holding up their laptops.  I suppose they were asked to do this by the photographer, but I imagine that many of them were also taking their own video with the computer’s built in cameras! 

My other favorite technology news site, CNET, also posted an article about Virgin’s Wi-Fi.  They clarified that the technology is cellular.  Three antennas on the outside of the plane pick up signal from ground based towers and, in turn, supply 2 or 3 wireless access points inside the plane.  This means it won’t work over the ocean.  Apparently, using satellites for this service proved to be too exensive.

Virgin is not the only airline to offer this service.  American has had it on selected flights for a few months.  Virgin just seems to be committing to it more wholeheartedly – promising system-wide service by next summer.

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