Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi to provide video downloads

Service expected to be popular addition to existing wireless offer

Aircell, the company offering the Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi service on many airlines, will launch an in-flight video downloading service later this year.

Users will be able to download a movie or TV show for a fee to a laptop while on a flight, making use of the Gogo Wi-Fi connection, said Eric Lemond, director of product management for Aircell, in an interview.

The movie will be available for viewing for up to 24 hours, even after the person has left the flight, because it will reside on the laptop. The service will be introduced sometime in 2010, initially for Windows laptops.

Users will visit a portal similar to iTunes, and pay perhaps $2 to $4 for a TV show or movie, he said.

Aircell has installed the Gogo Wi-Fi service on 700 planes with eight airlines, and recently recorded its two millionth user, Lemond said. The service can be used to browse the Web and search e-mail, and ranges from $5 to $13 per fight, depending on the airline and the length of time in the air. Some users have accessed the Wi-Fi service up to 20 times a month, Lemond said.

Video downloads during flights are expected to be popular, based on surveys, Lemond said. Virgin America, which has offered free Gogo Wi-Fi with Google Inc. during the holidays, already has an in-seat entertainment system using back-of-seat monitors. But many airlines don't have extensive entertainment options.

"Often it's just a movie on a screen that's hard to see," Lemond said. "Virgin is an exception."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, send e-mail to mhamblen@computerworld.com or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .

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