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CES: Attention Alec Baldwin: In-Flight Wi-Fi 4 Times Faster

Kelli B. Grant

Senior consumer reporter and “Deal of Day” columnist Kelli B. Grant travels to Las Vegas to find the best, the worst, and the most hyped gadgets at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Join her as she roams the exhibit floor for three days, with dispatches here and on Twitter @kellibgrant.

“Words With Friends” addicts like Alec Baldwin and other flyers in need of an in-air Internet fix may soon be able to get faster, uninterrupted service no matter where they fly.

GoGo, an in-flight Internet provider, plans to launch new technology during the first quarter that’s four times as fast as current connections. To put this in context: the current in-flight Wi-Fi connection is similar to a speed on a 3G cellphone. Virgin America’s fleet will get the upgrade to the new technology – called ATG4 – first, followed later by other partner airlines including Delta, United and American Airlines. Prices will remain unchanged: Depending on the length of the flight, offerings range from $1.95 for a “quick fix” 15 minutes, up to $14.95 for a cross-country flight.

GoGo is also preparing to launch a satellite in March 2013 that will enable the company to offer service on international flights, with the aim of global coverage by 2015.

Few carriers currently have Wi-Fi on every plane in their fleet, however, so there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to stay connected. And of course, improved coverage and faster speeds are no match for federal regulations that require travelers to turn off electronic devices once the aircraft cabin door closes, until it has reached cruising altitude. Even those flyers on equipped planes with $15 to spend will still have a good half-hour of tech withdrawal.


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