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Boeing commits to in-flight Wi-Fi for 2013, wireless media streaming by 2014

Boeing has announced that it will expand its suite of connectivity offerings, including new in-flight mobile phone use, Wi-Fi connectivity, and TV broadcasts.

The 747-8 and 777 Boeing aircraft, in production now, will roll out by the end of 2013 with in-flight use for mobile phones, Wi-Fi connectivity for passengers, Internet access using in-flight entertainment, and live television broadcasts, according to Boeing.

Additionally, the aircraft maker plans to retrofit the 787 with systems to provide similar features, and is working to include a full set of connectivity offerings as part of Boeing's standard catalogue by the end of this year.

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

"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," Mike Sinnett, senior chief engineer of Airplane Systems for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement.

Passengers want to be able to tweet, share Instagram photos of passing clouds, and stream movies from 50,000 feet, so Boeing has partnered with several connectivity system providers to bring those options to its family of aircraft, Sinnett added. That includes the Panasonic Global Communication Suite and Thales TopConnect system.

JetBlue announced last week that it will roll out in-flight Wi-Fi on its planes, in partnership with ViaSat, in the first quarter of 2013. The airline will initially offer email and browsing for free until at least 30 planes have been outfitted with satellites, but it will charge for streaming movies or music during flight.

Meanwhile, American Airlines is providing its staff with tablets and similar mobile devices to save money on fuel and paper products, as well as serve customers better. All pilots will receive an Apple iPad, while flight attendants will be able to track passengers via new Galaxy Note 2 'phablets.'