July 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 3 
Industry Wrap

United, Verizon eye in-flight Wi-Fi

A U.S. regulatory approval could make United Airlines the first U.S.-based carrier to offer wireless in-flight broadband service that could compete against Connexion by Boeing.

United Airlines received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration last month to install air-to-ground wireless Internet access to its fleet in a partnership with Verizon Communications Inc.

United and Verizon, which provides in-air phone capabilities for the carrier, said it must still get approval from the Federal Communications Commission before the new service can officially launch, an Associated Press report said. The report added that both companies expect to have a date within the coming months, following an FCC spectrum auction where service rights and ranges of frequencies will be awarded to one or more onboard Internet access providers. Connexion officials have expressed interest in participating in the FCC auction.

If United and Verizon fulfill their plans, the service would mark the second in-flight broadband service, after Connexion by Boeing. Connexion, which offers this in-flight service via satellite, has been in commercial airline service since May 2004.

Some computer industry observers see in-flight Internet access as a competitive service advantage. IDC analyst Abner Germanow told the technology news Web site CIO Today that with carriers fighting fiercely over customers, wireless Internet access could be one way to fill airplane seats by offering a service competitors don't have.


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