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January 24, 2013

United Airlines Becomes the First U.S. Carrier to offer Satellite-based Wi-Fi on long-haul International Flights

By Michael Guta, TMCnet Contributing Writer

The Airline industry is extremely competitive and companies will use any edge they have over their competition to get passengers onboard. This competition is even more ruthless with international flights where every national carrier is going after your passengers. By becoming the first U.S. carrier to offer satellite-based Wi-Fi for its long-haul international flights, United will have a clear advantage over other carriers for flyers that need to stay connected on long flights.

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United will use Ku-band satellite from Panasonic (News - Alert) Avionics on the Boeing 747 for the long-haul international flights and the Airbus 380 for domestic flights with Wi-Fi. The company estimates the service will be added to 300 United aircrafts for domestic and international flights by the end of the year.

The pricing structure for the service will depend on what type of speed you request on the flight. Just like the service in your home, the faster you want to go the more you have to pay. If you want the regular speed it will run you $4 per hours and $15 for the entire flight, and $6 per hour to $16 for the entire flight if you want the accelerated speed. While this might sound expensive, other companies such as Japan Airlines are charging $12 per hour and $22 for the entire flight. The company is not providing clear information regarding the actual speed of both tiers, but they claim it is faster than air-to-ground based Wi-Fi on domestic flights.

Two of the most popular Wi-Fi satellite providers are Gogo and SES and recently they combined forces to provide more services for domestic and international flights. Some of the companies they cover include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, US Airways, Virgin America as well as thousands of business aircrafts.

This service is gaining popularity across the world, but the Australian company Qantas is stopping its current trial of the services on its flight because of customer’s lack of interest.

A recent report from Global Industry Analyst revealed the market will be worth $1.85 billion by 2018. The report said this increase will be driven by the need for business people to keep in touch at all times. As personal mobile devices become part of the workforce they can be accessed no matter where you are with your device. This allows your colleagues or supervisor to stay in touch even if you are flying.

The inflight Wi-Fi service hasn’t been perfected and until it is, expect to see different levels of service including the price, speed and overall usability of the service.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.




Edited by Rich Steeves