Lufthansa's been pulling (relatively) speedy Ku-band satellite internet from the heavens for a bit over two years, but now trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific WiFi has finally made its way to a US-based carrier. United, the first US airline to fly the Dreamliner, announced today that a Boeing 747-400 is currently flying around the globe with a constant connection, letting passengers hop online during any portion of the flight -- taxi, takeoff and landing being are a few obvious exceptions, but there's no requirement that the aircraft operate within range of air-to-ground transmitters, a la Gogo.
The installed equipment, manufactured by Panasonic, will provide two tiers of service: Standard, which will range in price from $4 to $15, and a speedier Accelerated flavor, with pricing between $6 and $20. The service, which has also been installed on a pair of regional Airbus A319s, isn't as speedy as ViaSat's future Ka-band offering, but it's a step above what's currently on board. United also announced plans to bring WiFi to its A320, along with Boeing 737, 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft -- the airline expects installation to be completed on 300 planes by the end of this year. Still missing on many United flights, however, are power jacks -- it's difficult to take advantage of in-flight WiFi if your laptop is dead.
Update: Satellite WiFi historians may be familiar with Boeing's failed Connexion service, which promised a similar solution but dissolved prematurely in late 2006. United's implementation is the first of its kind for a US carrier.