Entire "Early Show" To Be Done From Plane

During a broadcasting first, Dave Price announced an even bigger one.

The Early Show weather anchor and features reporter told viewers during the first live weathercasts from a plane Thursday that those were only a warm-up act: Next month, an entire Early Show will be done from up above!

Price was some 33,000 feet in the air when he made the announcement, from a Virgin America A-319.

With him was Virgin America CEO Sir Richard Branson.

Where the plane will be headed next month remains a mystery.

What isn't a mystery is some of the content of the "Early Over America" show: a concert and fashion show, just for starters.

"This brings a whole new meaning to being on the road," Price observed, "because we're actually gonna be above it!"

It's all made possible by advances in Wi-Fi technology, cell phone service and broadband.

There are more than 100,000 cell phone towers across the United States, Price explained from the air Thursday, sending their signals down to cell phone users on the ground. But now, with the latest technology, that signal is being beamed up, not to people at slow speeds, but people in planes flying more than 500 miles-an-hour. It's Wi-Fi and broadband technology on the user end that makes it do-able, as well as the ability to hand off from tower to tower at high speeds.

Virgin America uses Aircell's Gogo in-flight Internet service.

Branson also described his carriers new "RED" entertainment offering, which enables passengers to control what they watch, when and what they want to eat or drink, and what they want to listen to, all via touch-screen or remote control.

Branson told Price the "only way to get over recession is to expand out of recession, put on more routes ... and then make sure that you add all the bells and whistles. Next month, on every single Virgin America plane, you'll be able to get the Internet on the plane, use the Internet the whole journey. And that's how we can actually broadcast live back to a television show today!"

Aircell says Gogo "turns an airplane into a Wi-Fi hotspot, enabling access to the Web, personal IM, e-mail accounts, and VPN access to corporate e-mail, networks and more. ... Users can simply turn on their Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as laptops, smartphones and PDAs, open their browsers ... and begin surfing. ... The service is $12.95 on flights over three hours and $9.95 on shorter flights."

Aircell CEO Jack Blumentein told Price Wi-Fio "has been used in aviaiton for many, may years and is absolutely safe. (It) doesn't interfere with aircraft operation. ... You can't use your cell phone to talk (from the plane) and you can't use cell phone frequencies. But you can use Wi-Fi and our link to the ground."

Delta Airlines offers Gogo on a limited number of flights and plans to expand it, and United Airlines says it will roll out Gogo in the second half of this year.

Among RED's features, according to Virgin America:

  • More than 25 on-demand movies and 18 channels of live TV
  • Kids' entertainment section with parental controls
  • 3,000 MP3 library and ability to create own play list
  • Interactive Google Maps, so you can track your journey at eight levels of zoom
  • On-board, seat-to-seat chat messaging
  • World's first on-demand food and drink ordering system at every seatback