In-flight wi-fi testing underway at Air Canada

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Air Canada has begun trialling in-flight wi-fi on select transborder routes, becoming the first international customer for US connectivity firm Aircell.

The airline is selling access to Aircell's Gogo Internet solution, which is accessibly once aircraft enter US airspace, on select flights to Los Angeles from Toronto and Montreal.

Internet access will be available for the vast majority of the flight time on both routes served by the two equipped Airbus A319s, an Aircell spokesman says.

Wi-fi access via a laptop costs Air Canada customers $9.95 per flight, while access via a personal electronic device is priced at $7.95 per flight.

Following the test period, which will run until 29 January 2010, Air Canada will analyze usage and passenger feedback before it proceeds with further wi-fi equipage.

Fleet-wide rollout is expected to occur in 2010 "and I don't see anything that is likely out there that will thwart that plan", Aircell executive vice-president of airlines John Happ has said.

Star alliance member Air Canada intends to extend wi-fi access to other routes in North America with the deployment of the Canadian Air-To-Ground (ATG) network.

Toward that end, Aircell is in negotiations with the Canadian ATG licensee, SkySurf Canada Communications, to provide connectivity in Canadian airspace as all firms seeking to enter the Canadian market must work through SkySurf, the Aircell spokesman explains.

Partnering with SkySurf will also enable Aircell to pursue other Canadian carriers, he adds.

In addition to North American connectivity, Air Canada has indicated interest in expanding wi-fi access throughout its entire network once Aircell develops an international solution, the Aircell spokesman says.

The firm is still in discussions with satellite players on a hybrid solution to offer airlines the ability to use ATG-based connectivity in North America, but Ku-band on overseas flights.

In addition to the Air Canada announcement, Aircell also notes that Gogo served its one millionth passenger last month.

"At the current rate of expansion and with users fast approaching 100,000 per week, the two millionth user is now expected to be reached in January 2010," Aircell says in a statement.