US firm Aircell and Canadian company SkySurf plan to offer a "hybrid" air-to-ground (ATG) connectivity solution that will enable commercial airline passengers to seamlessly access airborne Internet whether flying in Canadian or US airspace.

Last year SkySurf acquired at auction the country's ATG spectrum license. Aircell holds the equivalent license in the United States. After lengthy talks, the two firms recently reached an agreement whereby SkySurf will roll out an ATG network in Canada to enable in-flight Internet under the SkySurf banner.

Through a roaming arrangement with Aircell, SkySurf will use the Chicago-headquartered firm's existing ATG network in the United States to provide Internet to Canadian airline passengers flying over the continental United States.

A reciprocal roaming arrangement will allow Aircell to provide its Gogo Internet service to passengers on US commercial aircraft flying over Canada.

Aircell executive vice president and chief marketing officer Ash ElDifrawi tells ATI and Flightglobal that the switchover between SkySurf and Gogo service will be "seamless".

"SkySurf service will be offered in Canada, but when the aircraft fly to the United States, they'll roam into the Gogo service," he says.

Air Canada is already a Gogo customer, offering the service on two aircraft that fly US-bound routes. The carrier has previously said it would ultimately like to offer connectivity across its domestic fleet, although it has not yet publicized an arrangement with SkySurf, which aims to launch service next year.

SkySurf, meanwhile, reportedly intends to use existing mobile cell phone towers to support Wi-Fi connections. "We're starting off with a regional network, over high-density traffic areas, all the way from Windsor to, say, Quebec City," SkySurf president Raed Almasri is quoted as telling Canada's The Globe and Mail. "Then to the next high-traffic area, which is Vancouver-Calgary-Edmonton, and then slowly moving out from there."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news