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May 09, 2012

Gogo In-flight Wi-Fi Providers Obtain Airfone

By Nick Ruble, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Established in 1976, Airfone was the first company to provide communications services on commercial airplanes, using setback phones. JetBlue bought the company a while back, and earlier this week, in-flight Wi-Fi providers at Gogo have just obtained it. 

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In-flight Wi-Fi is becoming quite a popular solution to keep passengers occupied during long trips, and through Gogo’s recent purchase of Airfone, it hopes to further improve upon the quality and speeds of its wireless broadband services.

Gogo currently holds a majority of the market for in-flight connectivity solutions, providing Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Virgin America with service. This new deal could very well expand business relationships further.

According to JetBlue, the purchase will set Gogo back $7 million – which doesn’t sound too pricey for something that will essentially give the company’s network a complete overhaul.

Rather than relying on satellites and other similar services like a great deal of in-flight Wi-Fi providers, Gogo uses ordinary ground-based cell phone towers to receive 3G and LTE (News - Alert) signals – which might mean slower connections.

JetBlue was surprusingly never offered in-flight Wi-Fi, but that's set to change through its new partnership with ViaSat.

Opposite of Gogo, JetBlue’s pending solutions will in fact rely on connecting through satellites, potentially creating some competition for the company that just purchased its old network.

At the same time though, JetBlue’s service is exclusive to its airlines – it’s not a service provider like Gogo. While some frequent flyers might decide on which airline to choose based on quality and speed of in-flight broadband, it’s unlikely that a majority of consumers will opt for JetBlue solely based on its Internet connection.

There are definitely like-minded companies, like OnAir and TriaGnoSys, but they’re not quite on the same level of popularity as Gogo just yet.

Edited by Braden Becker