DN - Defence Notes

Spotlight on Row 44 as Alaska trial goes ahead

1st March 2009 - 15:10 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Row 44 now has both of its scheduled airline trials under way following last week’s introduction of the Ku-band connectivity service aboard a single Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-700.

Three weeks ago Southwest Airlines launched a trial aboard the first of four 737s to be equipped. Both airlines say they will implement Row 44-based services fleetwide if the results are satisfactory. 

The Alaska service, supporting Internet and VPN access, email and text messaging via passengers’ own WiFi-capable devices, will be available for about two months on the airline’s route from Seattle to San Jose, California.

Branded “Alaska Airlines Inflight WiFi,” it will initially be offered free of charge. Whether charges will be introduced later in the trial or only in any subsequent full implementation is unclear. The airline says it is soliciting passengers’ views on pricing and that “the structure will be flexible and will put the choice of how to pay in the hands of the customer.”

Passengers using their laptops, smartphones or personal media players to log on to the service first encounter a dedicated Inflight WiFi homepage offering live news, music, shopping and links to services on Alaska’s own Website. They can then navigate to the Web, their private networks and Web email services. However, VoIP voice calling is barred, and the system is not designed to support cellular links.

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