Aircell’s Gogo to introduce wireless in-flight video service

Inflight WiFi provider Aircell plans to launch an in-flight video downloading service sometime in 2010, called Gogo Video. The new service will give passengers on aircraft equipped with Gogo’s in-flight broadband solution the ability to download movie and television content to their laptops inflight using an onboard server and Gogo’s WiFi connection. Gogo currently provides inflight Wi-Fi on 700 planes with eight airlines in the U.S.

Users will visit a portal similar to iTunes, and pay USD2 to 4 for a TV show or movie. To access Gogo video, users will have to download the so-called ‘Gogo Video Client’ to their laptops, which is an iTunes-like application that showcases all available content. The content will be cached onboard in a server, protected by a Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme which Aircell says has been approved by numerous studios. The downloaded content will be available for viewing for up to 24 hours, regardless of whether the passenger is still flying, since the service will be similar to buying content from the iTunes store. According to Aircell: “Our strategy is to bring in-flight entertainment (IFE) into the Apple iPod world”. The service will initially be introduced for Windows laptops. Macs and mobile devices will follow.

Prices of the Gogo service range from USD5 to 13 per fight, depending on the airline and the length of time in the air. Aircell says it believes in a combination of passenger-paid and sponsorships as a revenue model, but take-up rates are reportedly low at around 5%. As a complement to this model, Aircell is now planning to introduce the Gogo video service. Passengers will be able to download a video without having to pay seperately for the WiFi connection. 

Video downloads during flights are expected to be popular, based on surveys, Aircell says. US carriers such as Virgin America and Jetblue (and Delta and Continental on select aircraft) offer in-seat entertainment on domestic aircraft. Furthermore, these carriers also charge for premium IFE content (on average USD6 to 8 per film). As many airlines don’t have extensive entertainment options on their narrowbody fleets, Gogo Video may serve as an alternative..

Update 25 February 2010: Alaska Airlines will likely evaluate the Gogo Video download service for its flights to Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. The carrier will rollout Gogo’s in-flight wifi service in 2010. However, as Alaska’s Hawaiian, Mexican and Canadian operations will not have in-flight Internet the airline is interested in Gogo Video for those markets.

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