American, Delta and United will start providing fast Internet access aboard their aircraft early next year.
Associated Press reports that the three airlines are developing the Connexion system with Boeing and they eventually plan to install the high-speed connections on 1,500 of their planes and sell the system to other airlines.
Already, rival Seattle-based Tenzing Communications has signed up three foreign carriers for its in-flight Internet service and is widely expected to form an alliance with Boeing`s main competitor, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industrie.
As planned by the three U.S. airlines, special antennas aboard the airplanes would connect with satellites to provide Internet access. Passengers would use their own computers on board and pay around $20 an hour for the hookup. All passengers on a plane that is wired for the Internet would be able to log on, but how fast they could send and receive would depend on the number of fellow passengers online at the same time.
The equipment first would be available to passengers on long-distance flights within the United States but the airlines hope to offer the fast Internet access on all their routes eventually.
It is not known whether passengers will be able to hook up to the Internet when they board the plane, or will have to wait until the aircraft is aloft. Presently, passengers must turn off electronic devices during takeoff and landing.