Boeing 747-8, 777 to join 787 in support for in-flight cellphone use and WiFi, like it or not

The more cynical among us would argue that allowing cellphones in-flight is only a guarantee of an even more unpleasant trip, at least for anyone wanting a distraction-free cabin. There must still be a few optimists: Boeing is promising that future production runs of the 747-8 and 777 will have the necessary support for in-flight cellphone use, live TV and internet access that comes through either headrest screens or WiFi. Aircraft with the upgrade should roll off the production lines before the end of 2013, and they'll be following a slight change to the 787 later this year that makes the technology support a common option. Some of us may wind up reaching for the earplugs in countries where regulators approve in-air wireless, but there's definite upsides for all but the biggest curmudgeons -- Boeing's moves could lead to more ubiquitous in-flight WiFi next year, on top of ready-made wireless media streaming due in 2014.

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Boeing Advances In-Flight Connectivity Options for Passengers

Commercial Airplanes to enhance communication access for travelers

SEATTLE, Sept. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing (NYSE: BA) continues to advance its suite of connectivity offerings on its family of commercial jetliners. Systems to be installed during production on the 747-8 and 777 by the end of 2013 have the capability to provide in-flight use for cell phones, wi-fi connectivity for passengers, internet access using in-flight entertainment (IFE), and live television broadcasts. Additional connectivity systems are being evaluated for the 737 that could be available in the near future. The 737 already includes wiring provisions for connectivity systems.

The 787 offers a post-delivery retrofit of systems that provide in-flight use of personal cell phones and wi-fi connectivity for passengers and is working toward a full set of connectivity offerings as part of its standard catalog by the end of this year.

"We're always working to ensure that our products offer the airlines of the world the most modern and robust technologies available to provide their passengers with an exceptional flying experience," said Mike Sinnett, senior chief engineer of Airplane Systems for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "Passengers want the option of staying connected to e-mail and the internet and other online offerings when flying. We've looked across the industry and are partnering with several connectivity system providers across our family of airplanes."

The prime connectivity systems currently in development at Boeing are the Panasonic Global Communication Suite and Thales TopConnect system.

Wireless media streaming is expected to be available on all new Boeing airplanes in 2014.