Delta Airlines said today they'll put in-flight broadband on their entire fleet of 330 planes by 2009. The airline will use Aircell's Gogo Internet service, which hasn't yet launched in a production run on any craft.
American Airlines ran a public test flight a few weeks ago, and will launch service on its 15 trans-continental Boeing 767-200 craft. But that's still a test. Virgin America will launch Gogo later this year on its fleet, which numbers just 22 planes so far.
The Delta service will launch starting this year on 133 MD88/90 aircraft, and then in 2009 expand to their 200 Boeing planes (737, 757, and 767-300s). The FAA airworthiness certification is model based, so each new model requires a separate process. I believe, however, that once Aircell has worked with a given airline on a particular model (like a 767-200 or 737), that approval for other carriers' identical model craft is streamlined or rubberstamped.Read more »
A California judge may have disrupted the way in which cellular carriers charge early termination fees (ETFs) to discover who want to exit a contract before the period they agreed to. Sprint was ordered to repay subscribers $18.2 million and stop collecting $54.7 million that subscribers had refused to pay.
ETFs have long been a point of contention. Carriers fought number portability for years, where cellular numbers could be as easily transferred among carriers as they could among landline providers. The mobile phone companies suspected that once customers could keep their number and escape, that there would be enormous churn. This has turned out to be true, with nearly 10 million subscribers leaving carriers each quarter, presumably for other carriers.
With portability came longer-term contracts. Where 1-year contracts were often the norm a few years ago, 2 years is now de rigeur, especially for attractive, exclusive phones, like the iPhone or Sprint's Samsung Instinct. Carriers in the U.S. typically subsidize phones, for which they pay hundreds of dollars, and argue that they can't recover the cost by either reclaiming the phone for an early termination, or making enough profit from monthly fees. That's certainly partly true, although this is coming from companies that charge 20 cents to a 140-character text message that costs them nearly nothing to deliver. Read more »
T-Mobile is the latest cellular carrier to realize that it's bad business--and bad for families--to present parents with the sticker shock of a multi-hundred-dollar bill the first month a kid text messages far beyond the plan for their cell phone.
The Family Allowances plan, which launches in August, lets parents set a variety of rules and controls over their kids' usage for a rate of $2 per month per line, which T-Mobile describes as "introductory." Other carriers charge more. The service allows limits to be set and modified for how many minutes are used, how many text messages sent and received, and the downloads carried out. Parents can also add specific numbers, like theirs, that may always be called. Limits on calls during certain times of day, and per-line blocking is also included. It works with both metered plans and unlimited plans.
AT&T launched its Smart Limits service in February 2008, which is quite similar but more expensive (at $5 per month), and which won't work with the iPhone, oddly enough. The AT&T plan apparently has more flexibility about time-of-day calling, but can't limit incoming calls (only block them), nor set a specific number of outgoing call minutes. Read more »
print will release August 17th its Airave "femtocell," a tiny extension of their cellular network that instead of using their own tower backhaul relies on your home or office broadband network connection. Cellular networks comprise overlapping regions or cells. There are microcells for small areas, picocells for offices and buildings, and now femtocells for the home or small office.
The carrot for spending $100 on an Airave and $5 per month for the unit is that you can place unlimited domestic calls that originate through the unit for $10 per month for an individual line or $20 per month for a multi-line account (not including taxes). "Originate" is a key point: If you're placing or receiving a call outside its limited coverage and then move into its coverage area, you're charged for or have minutes counted for that call as under your normal plan. But if you place or receive a call while within its coverage, your call's minutes are under the Airave's umbrella even if you wander out.
Airave is the first mainstream deployment of femtocells, which use licensed frequencies owned by a carrier and allow a customer to use what's essentially VoIP on a cell phone. The call is handled by the femtocell, which passes it over the Internet to a Sprint gateway to proceed onto the rest of the network.Read more »
A few days ago, I wrote about a fundamental flaw in the Domain Name Service (DNS) protocol that handles the lookup from human-readable names into machine-processed Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, advising all readers to determine their vulnerability and take action.
There's one more warning I should pass on, however. Because this flaw allows an attacker to poison the DNS for anyone whose system connects to an unpatched DNS server, an attacker can also bypass a protection built into encrypted Web sessions.
Web encryption uses SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security), a standard that relies on three methods to ensure that your browser connects only to the correct party on the other end for a secured link. Read more »