The battles between in-flight internet service providers are rather entertaining. The two main players, Row44 and Aircell (provider of the gogo service) are after each other like a couple of rival kids on the playground, constantly asserting themselves as the better option and working behind the scenes through lawsuits to scuttle the other. But beyond that bickering, Row44 has finally taken to the skies, with planes in service for both Southwest and Alaska Airlines.
Southwest has four planes operating with the service and is very excited about it. They are offering the system to users for free while they evaluate its performance and impact on the planes flying around. At least one industry insider has been out on one of the equipped Southwest planes and has some comments about its functionality, mostly positive. Still, there is no indication as to when (or even if) Southwest will be expanding the service across their fleet. Still no in-seat power available from Southwest, so hopefully you’ve got plenty of battery life available for your trip. Oh, and on the content front, they do acknowledge that, “As is common on many other public networks, we will attempt to filter indecent content.” Giving it the old college try, I see.
Among other in-flight internet providers out there, Aircell has also been making great progress. They are turning out one Delta plane a day, which is pretty impressive. Of course, Delta has a sizable fleet to work through, but this has been their plan for a while now, so good for them getting the service deployed.
LiveTV, on the other hand, hasn’t been making such great progress. The jetBlue subsidiary has a pretty stable and reliable product for their TV systems in North America, but everything else they are working on seems to be significantly delayed. They are going to be the provider of in-flight TV systems for Azul, the Brazilian carrier founded by jetBlue founder David Neeleman. But they are apparently having some trouble tuning the antennae just right for working in Brazil, slowing their deployment down there.
LiveTV is also running a bit delayed on getting the Continental LiveTV system up and running. This is a next-gen system (LiveTV3) and has some pretty amazing features, including on-screen guide and 80 channels to choose from. And it is a couple weeks delayed now in getting activated on the initial test plane that Continental gave to the LiveTV folks to work on. The good news is that a Continental maintenance engineer in Orlando is reporting that he’s seen the new plane and that it appears to finally be ready to go. Of course, now that the innards are all set they have to apply to the FAA for a certification of the modifications and that will allow them to deploy on additional 737-900ERs. That certification is expected to take about 30 days, so we’re looking at late March before these really start flying. The other interesting thing about the FAA certification process is that it is required for each plane type. As Continental intends to provide this service on several different types (757-300, 737-700, 737-800, 737-900, 737-900ER) they will have to undergo the certification process for each type, including having the plane out of service for the 30-60 days that the install and FAA processing takes. They’ve got the spare capacity, but it will be a bit of time before they can really start popping these out for the fleet. They announced that they expect to have it fully deployed by May 2010 or so; hopefully they can still hold to that date.
And one last bit on the LiveTV front. Their in-flight “internet” offering, known as Project KiteLine, is also running a bit slowly. Continental has committed to having this service on all their planes as part of the LiveTV deployment, but it now appears that it isn’t going to happen, at least not in a timely manner. The schedule now appears to have KiteLine available late this year. And it is still going to be a very limited subset of the Internet available. At least Continental acknowledges that it isn’t necessarily the best solution for their customers. They negotiated the contract with LiveTV such that they can add a true internet provider to their planes at a later time if they desire and the demand is really there.
Phew…that’s a lot of Internet to keep track of.
Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.