Gogo is expanding its inflight Wi-Fi service to allow customers to send texts and make voice calls using their existing smartphones.
The new capabilities, which are expected to debut next year, use a custom app for iPhone and Android to manage calling and texting, though messages will come from the device owner’s own number.
“There is a need for passengers to continue their life at 35,000 feet,” Gogo head of product development Brad Jaehn told AllThingsD in an interview. “A big part of that is text messaging and, where allowed, carrying on conversations.”
That said, U.S. airlines don’t appear keen to allow customers to converse during flight. Gogo already blocks Skype at the carriers’ request and expects to only enable the texting options of its new service for domestic flights.
The ability to talk as well, though, is something often requested by overseas carriers.
“This is something international airlines have asked for,” Jaehn said. “We know it’s probably not socially acceptable in the U.S.”
Gogo is still evaluating how to price the new service. It’s looking at many options, including selling a bundle of texts or minutes, offering it as an add-on to its standard Wi-Fi, partnering with carriers or even offering some texting for free supported by advertising.
Gogo is also in the process of adding new antennas to planes, allowing twice as many devices to be online, and providing peak speeds three times faster than its prior service.