Mobile Wi-Fi slowly, awkwardly starts to come together

You can access Wi-Fi networks on the go in lots of places, though hassles and price gouging remain common

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It appears to me that usage is low so far. Aircell says it has had 3.1 million sessions since the service launched last year, out of tens of millions of passengers on those planes. The company won't disclose what the average usage percentage is, but my unscientific eyeball counts on half a dozen flights puts it well under 2 percent. Given all the pickpocket charges the airlines already impose on travelers, another $10 for Wi-Fi may be one fee too many.

What's interesting about the Gogo service is its orientation to smartphones and handhelds. It pushes the handheld/smartphone service in its promotions, which makes sense: On most airlines (JetBlue is a blessed exception), the space between coach seats is so short that you can't type on a laptop on your tray table and have the screen titled back enough to see. Therefore, you can't really use a laptop in flight in coach. But you can use a smartphone, iPod Touch, or iPad -- especially on the slowly increasing number of planes that have USB power connectors on their seat arms or seatbacks. You can power a handheld or iPad from such a port, but not a laptop.

Where we are today is that there's more mobile Wi-Fi available, but the fractured fiefdoms add hassle and cost. The providers need to figure out how to stitch their services together and stop trying to carve out all these separate silos -- they inhibit usage that way. I figure in another five years, this mobile Wi-Fi thing may finally work right.

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This article, "Mobile Wi-Fi slowly, awkwardly starts to come together," was originally published at Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile computing at

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