FCC moves to boost in-flight broadband

The Federal Communications Commission took a step toward improving Web access for air travelers, voting to write rules to open frequencies for an air-to-ground Internet service proposed by Qualcomm.

The agency in a 4-to-0 vote Thursday advanced the plan to help travelers pull in Facebook pages, spreadsheets, videos, games and music on planes equipped with WiFi systems. The next-generation service needs another vote before final approval by the agency, which is changing leadership.

“We take an important step to improve in-flight broadband service,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who is set to step down May 17 after leading the agency since 2009. A successor awaits Senate confirmation.

The global market for in-flight entertainment and communications is estimated to grow to $3 billion in 2017, from $2 billion in 2012, Gogo, an in-flight communications company, said in an April 16 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

— Bloomberg News

financial services
Carlyle Group posts a $34 million profit

The Carlyle Group reported a $34 million first-quarter profit Thursday, driven by the sale of several investments.

The Washington-based financial assets giant did not provide its profit for the same period last year, when it was a privately held company. Carlyle also said it would continue to return money to shareholders and declared a 16-cent first-quarter dividend on its shares that is payable May 31.

Economic net income, which is the industry’s preferred business metric, was $394 million, a tiny increase from the same period last year. That figure includes the increased value of companies Carlyle has taken over but not sold. “It’s a good start to 2013, highlighted by continued strong fundraising and investment performance,” said Credit Suisse managing director Howard Chen, who rates Carlyle shares to “outperform.”

— Thomas Heath

Also in Business

l  Tesla Motors, the maker of electric cars run by billionaire Elon Musk, surged 24 percent after posting a first profit, beating estimates and earning a top evaluation for its Model S sedan from Consumer Reports. Tesla’s market capitalization totaled $8 billion, exceeding the $7.8 billion for Turin, Italy-based Fiat SpA, the majority owner of Chrysler Group. First-quarter net income totaled $11.2 million from a loss of $89.9 million in 2012.

l  Former senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is a leading candidate to run the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Wall Street’s biggest lobbying group, according to four people who have been briefed on the discussions. Gregg, 66, who retired from the Senate last year, declined to comment. If chosen, Gregg would replace Tim Ryan, who left for JPMorgan Chase earlier this year.

l AT&T Inc. created a pay-as-you-go unit called Aio Wireless that offers service with no annual contract as the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier works to compete with T-Mobile to win budget-conscious customers. Aio Wireless, based in Alpharetta, Ga., will sell a range of phones including Apple’s iPhone with data plans from $35 to $70 a month, the firm said.

l  Facebook is in advanced talks to acquire Israeli mobile satellite navigation start-up Waze for $800 million to $1 billion, business daily Calcalist reported Thursday. The deal, which would be Facebook’s largest acquisition, would give the social networking company a mapping service and allow it to better compete with Google and Apple. Waze and Facebook officials declined to comment on the report.

l  Average U.S. mortgage rates rose this week but remained near historic lows. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year fixed mortgage edged up to 3.42 percent from 3.35 percent last week. That’s still near the average of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971. The average on the 15-year fixed-rate loan rose to 2.61 percent from 2.56 percent last week, which was the lowest on records going back to 1991.

— From news services

Coming Today

l  2 p.m.: Treasury budget released.

l  Earnings: American Apparel, Constellation Energy, Kaiser