Airline Internet will rely on 4G, snubs WiMAX and CDMA

Posted by Theo Valich

Los Angeles (CA) – The market for Internet in planes is heating up, but don't expect any talks about WiMAX. Airborne Internet provider Aircell has announced its long term technology roadmap and WiMAX and CDMA are left in the cold.  The Illinois company says it will switch to 4G (also known as 3GPP Long Term Evolution) for its future products.

After developing in–flight internet service in North America with American Airlines and Virgin America, the company is focused on deploying its Long Term Evolution network which will enable next-gen mobile services like interactive HDTV, or support for online games such as Age of Conan, World of Warcraft and so on.

The current Gogo service is bringing the only air-to-ground mobile broadband Internet access and works through CDMA's EV-DO RevA frequencies approved by the FCC. Gogo basically turns the airplane into a flying Wi-Fi hotspot that takes the data from the ground at 12 Mbps. This is now being expanded to 22.7 Mbps (EV-DO RevC). Complete coverage is expected by the end of 2009, but the real fireworks will happen in 2011 when the 4G network will boost bandwidth to a massive 300 Mbps.

Don't expect that this service will be used only for passengers because according to Aircell executives, the high-bandwidth connection will enable high-resolution weather-to-the-cockpit services and increase flight safety.  Many airlines already have real-time storm tracking services through satellite and other links.