American Airlines to begin testing in-flight Internet service

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American Airlines has begun installing Aircell’s equipment for in-flight broadband aboard some of its Boeing 767-200s and is expected to begin a trial run soon. The Wi-Fi service will be limited to transcontinental US flights at launch, but will eventually be offered for shorter flights.

In-flight broadband has been around for years. Boeing launched its own service, Connexion, in 2001. But the service had a few shortcomings and was eventually shut down in 2006. For starters, Boeing’s failed Connexion system weighed half a ton, it used a surfboard-size antenna to link with satellites and was very expensive to implement – not to mention it cost passengers $10 for a half-hour and $30 for an entire flight. Aircell's equipment, however, weighs about 125 pounds, costs about $100,000 per plane and uses two small antennas to communicate through ground-based infrastructure.

Passengers will get full support for e-mail, VPN, and basic web surfing – VoIP will not be available. Although pricing is not set, Aircell predicts access during trips over three hours long will cost travelers $12.95, while shorter flights will be around $10.

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