Aircell readies to offer in-flight video download service

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Aircell is preparing to roll out a new service that allows passengers to download movies, television shows and other content for a fee on aircraft equipped with its Gogo in-flight broadband solution.

The cached content offering forms a strategic part of Aircell's business plan. "Our strategy is to bring in-flight entertainment (IFE) into the Apple iPod world," Aircell director, product and platform management Eric Lemond recently told ATI.

Gogo, which is presently installed on about 700 aircraft in the US fleet, is capable of delivering a wide range of content from its media server directly to end users' devices over its in-cabin Wi-fi network.

"We're going to provide a lot of choice - think hundreds of titles," says Aircell senior vice-president airline solutions Fran Phillips.

To access Gogo video, users will download the so-called 'Gogo Video Client' to their laptops. The video client is an iTunes-like application that showcases all the available content "in a compelling way for customers", says Lemond.

Troubleshooting will also be a click away for passengers. "A button in the system will let you launch an instant message [chat] with one of the support representatives and help you out if you need it," he says.

The video offering "will smooth out the peaks and valleys for us", allowing Aircell to offer video as an alternative - or complement - to in-flight Internet, says Phillips, noting, for example, that some people may prefer to watch a movie on a Friday night versus surfing the Internet, and parents may seek to download a video for their child's entertainment.

"If you wanted to do email at the same time as watching a show, you can," notes Lemond

Computer World reports that users could pay about $2 to $4 for a television show or movie, and that the service will be initially accessible on laptops equipped with Windows software.