United Airlines to offer in-flight WiFi

United Airlines said it would begin to offer in-flight WiFi service to its passengers. The service will begin next year. Early last week United and Verizon demonstrated wireless data could be transmitted from the air to the ground with no disruption to the plane's navigation systems. Two days later, the FAA gave the two companies permission to start installing the equipment in planes. The initial FAA approval is only for the same planes (B757-200) in which last week's test was conducted. The system will have to be tested in each of the models in United's flleet before getting FAA approval. The service is limited to US airspace.

The FCC is yet to auction off licenses for using frequencies necessary to transmit data between airplanes and the ground. Although Verizon is already using the frequencies for its seatback telephones, the company does not have broadband authorization, so United must wait for auction, expetced sometime in late fall or early winter. Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, using Connexion by Boeing, are already offering WiFi connection to their passengers. Connexion, however, uses a different technology than Verizon, relying on satellites to connect to the Internet.

For more on United's WiFi plans:
- see Avery Johnson's Wall Street Journal report (sub. req.)

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