Internet, but no Voice in the Air

As the WSJ article suggests for some passengers having Internet access on your next flight will make you happy & at least you’ll feel more productive while flying & for others you’ll be disappointed that you can’t go anywhere without being tied to the Internet & your e-mail.

Beginning in July, only a few days away, a few domestic flights will be equipped with gogo, an Internet service provided by Aircell. For rates starting as low as $9.95 passengers will be able to connect their Wi-Fi enable devices (computers & mobile phones) to the Internet. For flights exceeding more than 3-hours passengers will pay $12.95. Compare those fees to the $15.00 you’ll pay for checking in bags on some airlines & what you are being charged for snacks aboard a plane & the Internet costs start to look insignificant.

Internet service will be limited to flights in North America initially. This isn’t due to any regulatory problems or concerns; Aircell’s service is only land-based & won’t work over the oceans & on other continents. Download speeds aren’t like the high-speed Internet connections that you are most likely used to at the office or at home. For tasks such as reading & sending e-mail & casual web browsing the speeds are more than adequate though.

What stood out to me when reading about Aircell’s gogo service was that it blocked against any voice traffic. So those voice over IP enabled applications on your phone or computer won’t work for you. It’s my suspicion that these services are being blocked because Aircell & the airlines are looking to add voice services at a later date for additional fees. Of course, I’ll give Aircell & the airlines the benefit of the doubt for now & hope that they are simply blocking voice over IP services for reasons other than monetary gain down the road. Given the limited bandwidth currently available, VoIP services would most likely not work very well & if they did they would hog bandwidth from other users. Not to mention the annoyance factor involved with so many passengers being on the phone. As if the guy snoring next to you wasn’t bad enough, now you’ve got to listen to other people’s annoying phone conversations too.

Now if only these planes that are being equipped with the gogo Internet service will be have additional power outlets.

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