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United to be First to Offer Web in the Air

June 7, 2005

United to be First to Offer Web in the Air
June 7, 2005 – USA Today reports that United Airlines has received regulatory approval to be the first U.S. airline to install cabin equipment for Wi-Fi Internet service. Domestic flight passengers could be surfing the Internet by next summer.

United marketing executive Dennis Cary said the airline hopes eventually to install the service on its international flights as well. Pricing for access is "still being worked out," Cary said. United hopes the service will generate profit and attract more passengers as they have been in bankruptcy-court protection since December 2002.

Rather than using satellites to beam transmission, as some foreign airlines have been using, United will use "air-to-ground" technology, requiring airplanes to be equipped with a device that receives transmissions from cell towers on the ground.

For airlines to do this, the Federal Communications Commission first must auction off the air-to-ground spectrum to wireless carriers. It remains unclear whether the FCC’s auction, scheduled for later this year, would award the spectrum to just one wireless company or to multiple carriers, according to USA Today.

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