I’m familiar with Boeing’s Connextion inflight internet connection service, but I hadn’t been following it closely enough to know about some of the details behind the lagging of U.S. airlines in bringing the technology stateside. According to Information Week, 12 overseas carriers offer the service on 70 aircraft, some of which hit 13 U.S. cities on one end of their route. But domestic carriers still aren’t biting. Carriers remain hesitant due to factors including the cost of retrofitting aircraft (purportedly $500,000 each) and an unknown level of interest in the service, and they do make a valid point about two U.S. airlines in bankruptcy, more flirting with it and the disappearance of free meals, pillows and other goodies. Ironically, American, Delta and United were all original investors in Connexion, but pulled out in the wake of 9/11. In June, United became the first U.S. carrier to get FAA approval for wireless networks on their planes – they plan to introduce service in 2006.
In related news, Qualcomm is teaming with Connexion to test and demonstrate the successful use of CDMA and GSM mobile phone technology over onboard networks.
Sadly, this might mean that before too long we’ll all be within earshot of idiots squawking on their cell phones. All I can say is that by that point I hope I have the ability to quietly get some surfing done on my laptop.