Alaska Airlines Launches Wi-Fi Service
Alaska Airline launches a trial service employing a satellite-to-plane Wi-Fi system to provide in-flight broadband for laptops, PDAs and other mobile and wireless Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Along with providing Wi-Fi connections for passengers, Row 44's satellite-based technology also provides the airlines with a broadband link for operational data.
Alaska Airlines joined the industry race to add in-flight
Wi-Fi service Feb. 26, debuting the service on a handful of Boeing 737-700s.
The service is initially being offered for free on flights between Seattle and San Jose, Calif.
After the trial period, Alaska Airlines said it would determine a schedule and pricing for rolling out the Wi-Fi service to the company's entire fleet.
Employing Row 44's satellite-to-plane Wi-Fi technology, Alaska Airlines said customers using the service will have the full range of online activities, including Web browsing, online music, e-mail and instant messaging. VOIP (voice over IP) service and cell phone use is banned by the Federal Communications Commission on U.S. flights.
Southwest airlines is also using Row 44's satellite-based technology while American Airlines, Virgin America and Delta are employing Aircell's Gogo Inflight Internet service, which uses ground-to-airplane technology.
"This is a service that everyone can use, whether it's for business or entertainment," Steve Jarvis, Alaska Airline's vice president of sales and customer experience, said in a statement. "Our service gives passengers a choice in how they spend their time while traveling and enhances the in-flight experience."
The Row 44 system provides downlink data rates averaging 30M bps and 620K bps maximum in the uplink direction. Along with providing broadband for passengers, Row 44's technology provides the airlines with a broadband link for operational data. The system weighs less than 150 pounds.
Row 44's major system components include a low-profile antenna mounted to the top of the fuselage. Four compact line-replaceable units are installed above the cabin headlining just below the antenna: a server management unit, a high power amplifier, an antenna control unit and a modem data unit. To distribute a Wi-Fi signal, one or more wireless access units are placed in the airplane cabin.
Alaska Airlines conducted a number of ground and in-flight tests of Row 44's technology to make sure the system doesn't interfere with aircraft navigation systems. The service is being offered on a trial basis and has not yet received final FCC approval.