Aircell struck deals with Air Canada and Delta Air Lines recently to provide its Gogo Internet service, which allows passengers to use Wi-Fi enabled devices such as laptops, smartphones and PDAs throughout flights.

In September, Air Canada signed an agreement with Aircell to roll out its Gogo system on select flights next spring. The carrier plans to begin installing the system on A319s flying to the US and eventually on aircraft covering its North American and international markets.

In August, Delta agreed to install Gogo mobile broadband technology across its domestic fleet of 133 MD-88/-90s and more than 200 737, 757 and 767-300 aircraft.

"We make the entire aircraft a Wi-Fi hotspot, so it works well wherever you sit," Aircell Executive VP John Happ explains to Airline Procurement. "There's a strong body of evidence that indicates an extremely high demand for this technology."

Gogo, which allows passengers to use their Wi-Fi devices to access the Internet, corporate VPNs, e-mail accounts and SMS texting and instant messaging services, will be available for $9.95 on flights lasting up to 3 hr. and $12.95 on flights over 3 hr.

"Our customers asked for inflight connectivity, and we're responding by rolling out the most extensive Wi-Fi network in the sky," Delta CEO Richard Anderson remarked. "Beginning this fall, our passengers will have the ability to stay connected when they travel with us throughout the continental US."

One of the main reasons broadband connectivity is now economically viable in the cabin during flights is because of air-to-ground technology improvements. "This is not man-on-the-moon technology," admits Happ. "It's a relatively straightforward and basic endeavor. Basically we're taking things into the air that have worked well and have been proven to be reliable by countless high-tech telecommunication providers."

Last year American Airlines signed a deal with Aircell for Gogo and became its launch customer, and in late August it became the first airline to offer inflight Internet access in the US. Now customers traveling on AA's 767-200s can access coast-to-coast coverage on nonstop flights between New York and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.

"We are pleased to provide our customers with the unprecedented ability to stay connected to their family, friends and business associates on the ground via the Internet while traveling at 30,000 feet above the United States," AA Executive VP-Marketing Dan Garton said.

Virgin America, which signed a contract with Aircell for Gogo in September 2007, is expected to launch the technology across its fleet shortly. Implementation involves integration of Gogo into the carrier's Red inflight entertainment system. "Our goal with broadband is simple," observed Virgin America Inflight Entertainment & Partnerships Director Charles Ogilvie. "Let guests decide how and when they want to communicate and interact by providing relevant options."