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Coming soon to a plane near you: In-flight Wi-Fi?

Last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune (registration required) had an interesting piece about the imminent arrival of wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) on domestic flights. Ready or not, here it comes. Expect a pay-per-use service of some sort to be in place sometime in the middle of next year, with carriers like United among the first to embrace the system.

This one was easy to see coming. Laptop computers are as common on flights these days as magazines, books, and portable video game systems. It just makes sense to enable their Wi-Fi capability. In fact, several international carriers—such as Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines—are already doing it on international flights. Expect the new domestic Wi-Fi service to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $5 to $10 and appeal primarily to business travelers.

Of course this also opens the door for in-flight phone calls, probably via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) Internet technology. And from where I’m sitting, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Who wants to listen to their neighbor’s phone call on a flight? Isn’t air travel already enough of an ordeal?

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