Thursday, September 20, 2007

Alaska Airlines to test in-flight WiFi access

Alaska Airlines logoEarlier this week, Alaska Airlines announced plans to launch inflight wireless Internet service in the spring of 2008. The system will be tested on a next-generation Boeing 737 aircraft. If the trial has a favorable outcome, Alaska will proceed to equip its entire 114-aircraft fleet with the new broadband communication system provided by a company called Row 44.

According to a news release about the new service:
The technology will provide customers with a unique entertainment and business network at 35,000 feet. Passengers with Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as laptop computers, PDAs, smartphones and portable gaming systems, will have high-speed access to the Internet, e-mail, virtual private networks and stored inflight entertainment content.

"Bringing broadband Internet access to the skies is one of the most important things we can do to enhance the experience of both business and leisure customers," said Steve Jarvis, Alaska Airlines' vice president of sales, marketing and customer experience. "We're moving ahead with testing and ultimately plan to bring wireless broadband to our whole fleet."

Unlike air-to-ground services, Row 44's satellite-based system is designed to function over land, water and across international borders, enabling service throughout Alaska's route system in Alaska, the Lower 48 states, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico.

Customers connect to the system through wireless hotspots installed inside the aircraft cabin. A light-weight radome mounted on top of the aircraft houses an antenna, which receives and transmits signals through the Ku-band satellite system.
Alaska Airlines and Row 44 have been working together for two years to develop a cost-efficient inflight broadband solution.