Aircell to offer in-flight broadband access

We wrote a few weeks ago about how Aircell was picking up where Boeing left off: Offering WiFi services on commercial airliners. Richard Martin offers many more details about Aircell's business model and immediate plans, and you should read his discussion.

Three months ago, Boeing announced that it was giving up on its Connexion from Boeing after investing six years and more than $1 billion in the project. Aircell believes it has a better business model than Boeing, and also argues that its system will be more attractive to carriers and more appealing to passengers. Putting its money where its mouth is, Aircell outbid major carriers in last summer's FCC auction with a $31.7 million offer for 3 MHz air-to-ground bandwidth. Connexions relied on a satellite-based link, but Aircell uses a ground-to-air system consisting of three networks: A ground-based cellular network; a ground-to-air link using EV-DO Rev A technology running over the 3 MHz spectrum that AirCell owns; and a standard WiFi hot zone inside the plane.

AirCell's system offers several advantages over the one Boeing promoted: It weighs much less than the one offered by Boeing--an important consideration for airlines which must cope with higher fuel costs; it costs much less; and it can be installed overnight, which is another attractive feature as airlines do not have to be grounded--and lose business--in order to be retrofitted with the system.

For more on Aicell plans
- see Richard martin's Unstrung discussion
- and Aircell's Web site