Good News For Road Warriors: Wi-Fi Up High

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For all you heavy travelers, some good news crossed the wires today from United Airlines:

Chicago, June 6, 2005 -- United and Verizon Airfone have just become the first companies to receive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to install the necessary cabin equipment to enable passenger and crew use of wireless technology (Wi-Fi) devices on board a U.S. domestic commercial aircraft while inflight.

"Our research shows that connecting to the Internet is customers' most preferred form of communication to the ground, and this certification is a crucial step to bring this inflight wireless access to our customers," said Dennis Cary, United's senior vice president-marketing. "We are thrilled by this accomplishment and proud to lead the industry in North America with Verizon Airfone in this endeavor."

Writes Peter Rojas at Computer Alchemy:

It really isn't the flying itself we're afraid of--it's the prospect of being without our nurturing tether to the Internet that makes us all nervous and agitated.

No kidding--especially when your favorite ballclub starts a game at the same time your flight takes off from New York to San Francisco. But we digress...

Alan Reiter at the Wireless Internet Caucus writes a bit more and notes a number of hurdles that United will have to jump before the service can go live. Still, he points out that airborne Wi-Fi opens more possibilities than just e-mail and IMing at 35,000 feet:

Onboard Internet access offers more than just data connections. For example, Connexion is fast enough to use with voice-over-IP. With a VoIP account, such as from Skype, it's possible to make phone calls for free in peer-to-peer mode.

So if you're a solution provider, the number of reasons to move your clients over to a Wi-Fi standard just increased manyfold.

This is far from widespread adoption of Wi-Fi by all major air carriers, but since the airline industry is largely a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses sector, it's only a matter of time. Next up: major metropolitan transit systems. In any event, the disconnected world continues to shrink.

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