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.”
The approval was granted after the two companies successfully demonstrated
that the usage of 802.11 b/g wireless technology within the cabin does not
affect the aircraft’s operation. Most laptop computers sold today are
equipped with the wireless 802.11 b/g standard.
The certification is a welcome business development for both companies, as
they have worked in conjunction for more than a year, including months of
preparation and testing for safety and functionality, to obtain FAA
approval for this service. The approval currently applies to the cabin of
United’s B757-200 aircraft, as it was used to test the technology, and is
part of a larger strategy to enable high-speed wireless Internet access on
board all United aircraft.
“Our wireless broadband system will require only the addition of an
avionics box, a wireless access point and a directional antenna, making it
the faster and more affordable choice for United and its passengers,” said
Bill Pallone, president, Verizon Airfone.
The date that customers may begin using Wi-Fi devices on United ultimately
will be determined by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC)
scheduled “Air-to-Ground” spectrum auction to be held in the coming
months, where service rights and range of frequencies will be awarded to
one or more providers for onboard passenger access to the Internet. Once a
service provider is selected by the FCC, United is positioned to act
quickly to bring this service to customers.
Verizon Airfone currently provides voice services on United’s U.S.
domestic flights and JetConnect(SM) Messaging services on United’s p.s.
flights. Airfone handsets will remain on board across United’s fleet for
customer use. At this point, JetConnect Messaging services will remain on
United’s p.s. flights.