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Wireless Networking Transportation Hardware

American Airlines To Offer Wi-Fi In Planes 303

Posted by timothy
from the new-kernel-perfect-for-sharing dept.
Firmafest writes "In USA Today there's a scoop that American Airlines will offer Wi-Fi on domestic flights. Price is approx. $10 to get connected. Being a frequent international flyer I hope this will catch on. The LA Times reports that the cost is about $100,000 to equip a plane. While that number seems high, it will probably be worth it. If I had a choice between two flights both equally good, I'd pick the Wi-Fi enabled one." The article also says that JetBlue and Southwest Airlines are at least experimenting with Wi-Fi access aboard, while Delta already offers it.
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American Airlines To Offer Wi-Fi In Planes

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  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @09:36AM (#27401081)
    ...we need the cash.
  • by nweaver (113078) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @09:37AM (#27401093) Homepage

    Virgin america also has WiFi on at least some of their flights.

  • Not sure why this article is 'news', its been tried before and even Boeing could not make it cost effective even when dealing with new-build aircraft (no retrofitting needed, lower costs than dealing with airframes that have already come off the production line) - the service was discontinued at the end of 2006.

    Interestingly enough, Connexion was a partnership between Boeing, American, United and Delta airlines. I wonder what has changed...
  • by ptbarnett (159784) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @09:38AM (#27401105)
    Another article here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap_travel/20090331/ap_tr_ge/travel_brief_airborne_internet_american [yahoo.com].

    Backelin said the Internet access will be filtered to block pornographic sites -- the airline at first said it wouldn't do that, but relented after hearing complaints from customers and flight attendants. And American won't allow voice-over-Internet phone service, to keep chattering to a minimum.

  • DANGER DANGER (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hplus (1310833)
    I don't fly often, but I'm going to start watching the sky for falling AA planes. With all the radio waves in planes introduced by offering wifi, there's no way the planes won't crash. At least, that's what the FAA has been telling us for as long as I can remember. Now that there's a way to make money from using radio devices in the cabin, there doesn't seem to be a problem anymore.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sam0737 (648914)

      I think there is a ban for other reasons. Another legitimate reason I heard is about cell-phone jumping around the cell-tower because all cell grid looks similarity poor, almost the same SNR from 30000 feet, and the cell phone and network will go crazy in switching.

      When did your computer crash last time when your cell phone rings right next to it? None for me.
      I know airplane has a lot more analog device, but with Wifi, which its active transmission power is like hundreds time smaller than the cell, and bein

      • When did your computer crash last time when your cell phone rings right next to it?

        If I put my cellphone near my PC, all of the USB devices lose power when I receive a call or text message.

        I guess USB cabling isn't shielded as well as others.

    • Re:DANGER DANGER (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bws111 (1216812) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @10:03AM (#27401437)

      I don't recall the FAA ever saying that electronic devices WILL cause a crash, only that the planes have not been certified with the devices. So, if you have not done the certification testing (expensive), the prudent thing to do is say don't use the devices. Since, as you pointed out, they can make money on it now, it makes sense to spend the money on the certifications and allow some devices.

      Also, while the FAA is concerned about cell phones for the same reason as above, the FCC is more concerned. Having thousands of cell phones hop from tower to tower at 500 MPH is not something the system was designed to do.

      Not everything is some conspiracy to infringe on your rights.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by siriuskase (679431)

        The ban on electronics in flight preexsits cell phones (late 1980's). So, while cell hopping is a real problem for the phone company, it's not the cause of the ban. The ban is simpley because they have know idea what you might be bringing aboard, so they blanket forbid everything.

        We have found that if you go to the pilot and discover (s)he is a ham, you can usually get permission to operate a 2m rig.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      You are aware that radio devices use different frequencies, yes?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I strongly suspect that "no RF devices on the plane" is, in many respects, very similar to "no metal in the microwave". That is, not actually all that true, there are loads and loads of exceptions; but the exceptions can be complex enough that it isn't worth the trouble of attempting to explain them.
    • Re:DANGER DANGER (Score:5, Informative)

      by jank1887 (815982) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @10:22AM (#27401673)

      no cell phones on planes is an FCC mandate, not an FAA mandate:

      http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cellonplanes.html [fcc.gov]

      "Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibit the use of cellular phones using the 800 MHz frequency and other wireless devices on airborne aircraft. This ban was put in place because of potential interference to wireless networks on the ground. "

    • I fly GA aircraft and I've left my phone on before. Granted I'm not at 30K feet but I have gotten interference with my headset. It's an iPhone 3G and I think it switched over to EDGE. I was getting the typical EDGE pulse noise like you get on any speakers. So yes there is some issue with cell phones, especially when they drop to EDGE which the 3G ones usually do when they can't get 3G.

      People are not that close to the cabin in commercial jets so the problem is less severe than what I was getting.
  • by hemp (36945) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @09:44AM (#27401163) Homepage Journal

    You are going to be disappointed as an international flyer as internet access will only be deployed on domestic MD80s and 737s.

    For flights over water, a satellite based system would be required and American Airlines is not using a satellite based system.

    • by sam0737 (648914)

      Even if it's available on Asia-North America flight...only do it if you don't mind the Soviet Russia listening to your traffic.

    • by sunking2 (521698)
      And neither of those planes have enough room in them to easily use a laptop other than in first class, of which there are about 16 seats. Not to mention no power adapters so half way through your flight you're done anyway. Sounds great on paper. Practicality wise it will fail just like all the previous attempts have. Just saying, if they are doing their rate of return simply by the number of people with laptops and some poll I think they are being a bit overzealous. Payback will be much longer than they thi
      • by ptbarnett (159784)

        And neither of those planes have enough room in them to easily use a laptop other than in first class, of which there are about 16 seats.

        I travel "those planes" on a regular basis. When I walk back to the restroom in coach, I find that 1/3rd to 1/2 of the passengers are either working or watching a DVD on their laptop.

        Not to mention no power adapters so half way through your flight you're done anyway.

        AA has power at selected seats. I almost always sit in the exit row, which does have power. In the rest of the "prime seats" (used by business travelers), I find that approximately every other row has power. If it isn't your row, it isn't difficult to negotiate with the row in front of you to let you use their power out

  • I wonder... (Score:4, Funny)

    by quonsar (61695) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @09:50AM (#27401251) Homepage
    if they'll call it "Wi-Fli"?
  • by OneSmartFellow (716217) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @09:52AM (#27401281)
    ...that it's perfectly safe to operate your wireless devices inside an airplane, as long as you're paying the airline for the pleasure.
    • by jandrese (485)
      My guess is that one reason it costs $100k per plane to install this system is that part of the installation is doing the tests to insure that 802.11 doesn't interfere with any of the plane's systems.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Shakrai (717556)

        My guess is that one reason it costs $100k per plane to install this system is that part of the installation is doing the tests to insure that 802.11 doesn't interfere with any of the plane's systems.

        I had a cross country flight a few years back with some friends. We created an ad-hoc network and played Worms World Party [wikipedia.org] for about half of the flight. Amazingly enough the airplane didn't crash.....

      • +1 Inconvenient truth
  • They've got a website - http://www.alaskaair.com/as/www2/help/faqs/inflight-broadband.asp [alaskaair.com] - answering questions on their inflight wi-fi and their @alaskaair Twitter account - http://twitter.com/alaskaair [twitter.com] - provides daily updates what flight #'s will have wifi.

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @10:00AM (#27401391) Homepage Journal
    What good is WiFi when most of the flights I fly on don't give me anything to plug my laptop in to anyways? I'd even consider paying a few dollars for electric service on a flight so I could plug in and use my laptop for the duration of the flight. As it is, my laptop run time on flights is strictly limited to the charge on my batteries before I get on the plane.

    And if I'm going to use my latop with WiFi on, that would only drain by battery slightly quicker than without it.
  • by FunkyELF (609131) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @10:00AM (#27401395)
    I just flew AA and they charged me $40 for two suitcases. $15 for the first and $25 for the second. I understand what they're trying to do here but the problem is that their flights show up as cheaper on search results. You can think of it as a $40 discount if you don't have any checked baggage or a $25 discount if you only have one checked bag....but the searches should reflect that.
    • $40 for them to maybe get my luggage to me or even better (and less likely) to me during my trip. This is why I always go to great lengths to fit everything into a carry-on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Idiomatick (976696)
      Unless I'm moving I'll never need 2 checked-bags. I'd be shocked if I needed one. The max bag size for carry-on (you are allowed 2) Should be fine for 2weeks of travel (I go somewhere with 1 and return with 2 usually)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Renraku (518261)

      You got it easy.

      I flew US Airways. I got charged $15 for my checked bag. I also have a laptop bag which can go under the seat, and a backpack which takes up very little room in the overhead.

      Several people each flight brought two large bags that each took up over half of an overhead bin, and then argued with the flight attendants for 5-10 minutes about how they should be allowed to bring as much as they want on the plane. This held up my flights for several minutes each, that WOULD have left a few minutes

  • Implications (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eric02138 (1352435)
    AA is going to have to make policies surrounding a variety of issues like:
    • How is AA going to prevent me from setting up my Meraki repeater [meraki.com] once I'm aboard and start re-selling their service for a lower price?
    • Are people going to be able to access Skype? How loud will they be allowed to talk before I am allowed to garotte them with my $4 headphones?
    • If the engines on the plane fail, will I be blocked from twittering "Ahhh! Gonna die!"?

    The possibilities are endless.

    • First one is simple just put it in the agreement when you buy service.
      Second is also most likely forbidden in the agreement.
      Third one is probably going to happen at some point but it could also be used to twitter or IM "flight 717 has been hijacked somebody save us!!" albeit the same could happen and it be a prank.
    • 1. Stewardesses will be trained in Krav Maga.
      2. No (Serious answer; VoIP is blocked)
      3. The use of electronic equipment during an emergency is strictly prohibited by existing regulations. "Seat backs upright, trays in their upright locked position, bent at waist with head between knees and hands behind head" is hardly the ideal typing position.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      How is AA going to prevent me from setting up my Meraki repeater once I'm aboard and start re-selling their service for a lower price?

      The fact that if you start hocking your nerdly wares up and down the aisle, someone is going to alert a flight attendant. It's the same reason you don't have people selling you non-internet goods on the airplane.

      If you just repeat it to your 2 co-workers no one is going to care, it will just make you look cheap.

      Societal pressure will do wonders for stopping shitty behavior in the real world. It works double plus good when everyone has spent at several hundred dollars to enter a confined space. This is why y

  • Already happening (Score:4, Informative)

    by greenfield (226319) <samg+slashdot@unhinged.org> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @10:15AM (#27401567) Homepage

    AA has been offering wireless on several SFO <-> JFK flights for quite a while. And as another poster pointed out, Virgin is also offering this on many flights.

    I hit speedtest.net [speedtest.net] from both a recent American Airlines [samgreenfield.com] flight and a Virgin America [samgreenfield.com] flight (Bonus: Verizon Fios and TWC stats, too!).

    The connections from the flights were good enough to watch Battlestar Galactica on hulu.com. (I am a big geek.)

    In both cases, Internet service was provided by Gogo [gogoinflight.com].

  • by nekdut (74793) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @10:27AM (#27401767) Journal

    Other than the fact that they are expanding the routes on which this is offered, I'm not sure how this is new news. Gogo has been offering service on trans-con American Airlines flights from LA to the east coast for at least 6 months now.

    I've used it a few times, and it works OK. Speeds were reasonable (100-150KB download speeds, ping times comparable to mobile broadband, 150-200ms) and I think there was only 1 dead spot for a few minutes during the times that I was logged in. They did not block VPN access so you could conceivably use VoIP once you VPN, but I did not try this.

    A link to the actual service (rather than USA today or a blog) would help too:

    http://www.gogoinflight.com/ [gogoinflight.com]

  • by randomchicagomac (809764) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @10:30AM (#27401793)
    I was on a Southwest flight that was testing this out about a month ago, where it was free for passengers. I ran speakeasy's speed test on it, http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/ [speakeasy.net] , and got about 3000 kbps down, and something like 200 kbps up. I ran the test about five minutes after they announced that we could use the service, and it seemed like more than half the people on the plane had laptops out and were playing with the service, even though none of us knew that the service would be available until we got on the plane.
  • Despite the airlines' push to keep customers connected while flying, there's one service passengers shouldn't expect soon: cellphone service. Carriers are reluctant to make cellphone connections available during flights [...] partly to avoid problems between passengers seeking quiet and those talking loudly to be heard above

    While I certainly welcome connectivity on the plane, once you offer it, unless you explicitly block Skype, YIM, and others, cellphones are no longer relevant as anyone can use VoIP. Th

  • I'm sorry, sir, we can only offer local area network at this point.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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