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JetBlue introduces free in-flight email, IM

Evan Blass

In a welcome first for domestic airlines, JetBlue will be rolling out free in-flight Yahoo IM and email services to passengers packing WiFi-equipped devices, starting aboard its new "BetaBlue" Airbus A320. Once this test-bed passenger jet reaches 10,000 feet, an in-plane network with three in-ceiling access points is activated, allowing most any wireless gadget with a Flash-enabled browser to view specialized versions of either Yahoo Messenger or Mail through a universal landing page. What's more, owners of certain BlackBerry handsets like the 8820 or Curve 8320 can keep feeding their addictions non-stop thanks to an agreement between JetBlue and RIM.

Bandwidth for these services is provided by LiveTV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the carrier that provides the entire fleet with select DirecTV and XM radio channels, and which also happens to possess a valuable 1MHz slice of ground-to-air spectrum that it's deploying for this very purpose (with the help of some 100 existing cell towers around the country). If all goes well in what is admittedly a beta test, more aircraft will receive the WiFi makeover, and more features -- such as access to terabytes of locally-stored multimedia content -- will be rolled out, along with additional service providers besides Yahoo. Just don't expect an open pipe any time soon: that sweet little slice of spectrum is not nearly robust enough to handle the heavy Slinging, VoIPing, and Torrenting you all would obviously be doing.

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