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WiFi coming soon to flights...seriously!

I know, it seems like we've been talking about WiFi coming to U.S. airlines for an eternity now. Still, there are many regulatory hurdles to be cleared and few technological challenges to be met before WiFi and cellular data service become a widespread reality at 35,000 feet. Despite this fact, next week could mark the beginning of the end for un-plugged planes. United Airlines plans to start trialing in-flight WiFi next week and JetBlue will start rolling out their service on select flights, which allows passengers access Yahoo Mail and Messenger, as well as BlackBerry connectivity. JetBlue's solution--which uses an air-to-ground cellular network based on the same spectrum that those seat-back phones use--could experience severe bandwidth limitations and for that reason, the airline is limiting the devices and applications that can be used and also offering the service for free. Other airlines, including American Airlines and Virgin America, plan to roll out more robust WiFi during the next year, "probably at a cost around $10 a flight," according to analysts in the space. "I think 2008 is the year when we will finally start to see in-flight Internet access become available," said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research, "but I suspect the rollout domestically will take place in a very measured way."

For more on in-flight WiFi:
- see this article from the New York Times

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