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Boingo's Wi-Fi access takes flight

Company will offer in-flight Internet access to its hot spot customers

Airliners are slowly coming closer to being just another place to tune in to a Wi-Fi signal.

Boingo Wireless announced a deal this week that will give its hot spot customers internet access on flights that offer the Connexion by Boeing in-flight Wi-Fi service. The partnership will remove the need for airline passengers to sign up for a separate Wi-Fi service and get a bill from Connexion by Boeing.

Connexion by Boeing, a division of Boeing, offers in-flight Wi-Fi on a number of flights by major international carriers, including Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, and SIA Group's Singapore Airlines. The company charges passengers $29.99 for access to the network on each long-haul flight.

Boingo offers users access to a network of Wi-Fi hotspots through customised client software. Customers pay a flat $21.95 (£11.48) per month fee for access to hot spots provided by many different service providers. Some networks, including the in-flight hotspots, are "premium locations" for which there is an extra charge.

Fliers with a Boingo account will get a $28.99 (£15.64) charge per flight on their regular monthly Boingo bill. The service is available immediately.

By eliminating the need for a separate account with Connexion by Boeing, Boingo overcomes one hurdle to adoption of in-flight Wi-Fi but doesn't address the biggest barriers, says Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin.

The biggest issue now is lack of availability: For in-flight Wi-Fi to really catch on, finding it available will have to become the rule rather than the exception when users get on a flight, he says. Providers will also have to make fliers aware of it in many places, including the airline check-in gate and ticket-selling sites such as Expedia, he adds.

Price, though not an issue for very early adopters, will become an issue when providers want general passengers to log in, Golvin predicts.

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