Alaska Airlines has
announced it plans to launch inflight wireless Internet service next year
based on Row 44’s satellite-based broadband connectivity solution.Alaska
made the announcement in Toronto at the 28th Annual World Airline
Entertainment Association Conference and Exhibition. The airline will test
Row 44’s system on a next-generation Boeing 737 aircraft in spring 2008
and, based on the trial’s outcome, plans to equip its 114-aircraft fleet.
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’s route system and their proven leadership using innovative
technology make them an ideal airline for our system’s flight testing and
early deployment,” said Gregg Fialcowitz, Row 44’s president. “Deploying
our service on their routes-with so many areas that can’t be served by
air-to-ground systems-is a perfect opportunity to highlight the benefits of
our satellite-based system.”
Alaska Airlines has frequently been recognized for its use of
pioneering technology to improve the customer experience. The airline, in
1995, was the first North American carrier to sell tickets online and, in
1999, became the first carrier worldwide to offer Internet check-in.
Alaska and Row 44 have worked together for two years to bring a
successful and cost-efficient inflight broadband solution to market.