Detailed within a AT&T press release, the wireless service provider is working on a connectivity service for airlines that will provide speedy, 4G download speeds to passengers. Targeting late 2015 as a launch window for the service, the system will be able to provide a number of in-flight entertainment options as well as fast broadband service to peruse the Web while in the air. Beyond passenger planes, AT&T is also planning to target business aircraft and general aviation aircraft for the launch.
Speaking about the planned launch of the new service, AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Stankey said “Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet. We are building on AT&T’s significant strengths to develop in-flight connectivity technology unlike any other that exists today, based on 4G LTE standards. We believe this will enable airlines and passengers to benefit from reliable high speeds and a better experience. We expect this service to transform connectivity in the aviation industry – we are truly mobilizing the sky.“
Of course, AT&T didn’t indicate if existing AT&T customers will be able to take advantage of the service as a free perk when flying. It’s more likely that AT&T will price the 4G LTE access similar to existing in-flight services like GoGo. Depending on the length of the access period, GoGo customers pay between $5 to $16 for Wi-Fi access during a flight. However, AT&T believes that services like GoGo aren’t addressing the need for speedy connectivity, specifically citing a study that found that nearly 90 percent of flyers found in-flight Wi-Fi to be frustrating due to “inconsistent or slow connections.”
Besides partnering with Honeywell to build the technology, AT&T hasn’t announced any commercial airline partners that will receive access to the 4G LTE network. It’s likely that announcements regarding airline partners will roll out gradually over the next 18 months.