Boeing, the big airplane maker is rethinking its in-flight WiFi access service, Connexion. According to The Wall Street Journal, the service is unprofitable and as a result has been on the block, but has no takers. The company is said to have spent close to a billion dollars on the service, that is like the proverbial Big Foot in the US skies. (European carriers like Lufthansa and Asian airlines such as Singapore Airlines have introduced the service on their flights.) Andy is right when he says, that the US airlines are taking an approach that is reminiscent of the record industry’s approach towards downloads.
I guess being fiscally constrained could explain the US airlines’ reticence. Of course, there is the rise of the competing technologies. Jet Blue got some wireless spectrum licenses for offering broadband in the air recently. Airbus launched OnAir, a mobile phone-based service in 2005 which will allow GSM and GPRS access in the air. AirCell is another company that is looking to provide low cost broadband in the air.
3 thoughts on “Connexion, Disconnection?”
I don’t think AirCell should be an “also” ran — they won the 3 MHz license, while JetBlue only got 1 MHz. AirCell is now part-owned by Ripplewood ($12b private equity firm) that put in the money to let AC Bidco LLC, a sister company, purchase the license for AirCell.
Verizon has exited the business. AirCell has a 10-year license. Airlines are salivating on adding a service that requires a few dozen pounds, a small antenna, and NO PER-SEAT WIRING!
The take up rates required for any avionics connectivity project compared to the cost and reliability of your neighborhood coffee shop create a cost / service dilemma that inevitably disenfranchises users.
In simple consumer terms you get far better service for free, at a coffee shop with your $5 mocha , than you do in a plane for $30 an hour, after spending $2000 on you airfare.
Lack of power outlets may have been a contributing factor.
$30 for internet access for the flight might be a reasonable price for 5+ hours of use, but 5+ hours of use is impossible without power.