United announced today that its fleet of Continental domestic 737s and 757s (over 200 planes) will be equipped with Wi-Fi starting in 2012. Unlike the Gogo land-based system that UA currently uses, Continental will use satellite provider Ka-band, which purportedly will utilize world’s highest-capacity satellite to provide unmatched connectivity whether flying over water or land–an important distinguishing point between "first-generation" Wi-Fi that essentially worked only over land.
While this is not the first time Continental has announced plans to install Wi-Fi onboard its aircraft, the competitive environment (American and Delta offer Wi-Fi on most of their domestic fleet) had made it necessary for Continental to embrace in-flight internet.
Curiously, there was no word today about what United’s plans are to expand Wi-Fi beyond its p.s.-configured 757s. United is testing out Wi-Fi on one non-p.s. 757 right now, but it needs to do much better than that in an age when all of its competitors are offering internet connectivity.