United Airlines and Verizon Airfone are 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.
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.