Hope For Wi-Fi In Airplanes

I think that John Guidon, of Row

44, is the first CEO to leave

a comment under his own name at Market Movers. His slogan is "giving

broadband wings" – putting wifi into airplanes. The service will

launch in the first quarter of next year, on the Boeing 737s flying domestically

on an as-yet-unidentified airline. Europe should come online in the third quarter,

and transatlantic service in the fourth quarter. Prices seem


Row 44 is determined to better Connexion’s end-user prices, which bottomed

out at $26.95 for the full flight duration. When they log on aboard the aircraft

passengers will be offered a “point of sale” tariff of $10 for

up to two hours, $15 for 2-5hr and $20 for more than 5hr. It is also planned

to sell subscriptions to regular travellers, and to market the service via

mobile operators and Internet service providers.

Of course, if the airline is willing to pay Row 44 a few cents per passenger,

then the whole service can even be free, with shared advertising revenue.

I hope that Guidon is talking to Apple: he says that passengers can surf the

web on their iPhones – but it seems that they’ll only be allowed to do

so, under current regulations, if Apple allows users to turn off the cellular

capability while still using the wifi functionality. At the moment, that’s not


I know almost nothing about this industry, but a bit of Googling tells me that

Row 44 will be competing with Panasonic on the satellite front, and with AirCell

on the air-to-ground front. According to the WSJ, AirCell’s wifi service will

top out at $10

per day, although it will block the Skype calls which Row 44 seems set to

encourage. (AirCell is trying to also sell its own in-flight telephony service.)

And come 2010, JetBlue will also have an air-to-ground service running, which

will almost certainly include wifi.

I only hope that all the airlines offering wifi also offer electricity outlets

in coach.

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