Roaming in Flight with iPass
I've written about two separate trends that have just collided today: in-flight broadband and fixed-rate unlimited monthly Wi-Fi roaming. Perhaps collided is the wrong word when referring to airplanes, though.
iPass, an aggregated remote access and end-point security provider, announced today that it will offer roaming with Aircell Gogo, likely to be the first in-flight broadband service launched in the U.S. At least two competitors are at work, but Aircell will likely be first with launches on American Airlines and Virgin America later this year, and maybe in a matter of weeks.
As I wrote recently, iPass provides service to corporations that can distribute their costs for metered service by the minute, hour, day, or month from all their employees across iPass's system that includes dial-up, Ethernet, 3G, and Wi-Fi worldwide. The company recently added individual packages that have fixed rates for U.S. or international usage. The cheapest plan is $29.95 per month for unlimited U.S. Wi-Fi, dial-up, and Ethernet (typically in hotel rooms) and $44.95 for the worldwide version.
iPass couldn't be pinned down today about pricing for the Gogo service, but expects to charge additional fees for Gogo access; a spokesperson said that prices haven't yet been set. Gogo plans to charge a retail price of $9.95 for flights of three hours or shorter, and $12.95 for all longer flights. (Correction: This article originally stated that iPass wasn't currently planning to charge extra for Gogo service, but that is incorrect. A spokesperson clarified earlier remarks to explain that additional fees will be likely, but that those haven't been determined yet.)
That's not out of line with the day rate at hotels and airports, where the walk-up rate can be from $7 to $15, but hotspot aggregators like Boingo (which owns many airport Wi-Fi operations) and iPass pay the provider a wholesale rate that can be as low as 50 cents per session. Wholesale providers and aggregators typically don't release these wholesale rate numbers.