WiFi Coming to Airliners in U.S.

U.S. Airlines will start offering in-flight Internet connections within the next 12 months, according to the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

With the FAA not allowing cell phone usage onboard any time soon, "the preferred cabin technology in the U.S. is Internet service, which will launch early next year. If broadband connections at 35,000 feet are as popular as they have been at hotels, airports, homes, schools and coffee shops, airplanes will likely be fitted with the relatively inexpensive technology rapidly," Scott McCartney reported for the WSJ.

The in-cabin Internet service has already been approved by both the FCC and the FAA, according to Jack Blumenstein, chief executive of AirCell Inc. which now has acquired the rights to the radio frequency spectrum formerly used by airphone service.

"AirCell will install equipment on airliners that will act as a WiFi hotspot in the cabin and connect to laptop computers and devices like BlackBerrys that have WiFi chips. In all, it will cost about US$100,000 to outfit a plane with less than 100 pounds of equipment, and the work can be done overnight by airline maintenance workers," AirCell said.

Voice services like Skype will be blocked for passengers, however the flight crew and Air Marshalls will have access to voice services.

The cost is expected to be about US$10 per day.