Competition arrives for in-flight Internet

In-flight Internet service in the United States has been dominated by one name – gogo.  Their service is being adopted rapidly across the country, with 8 carriers on board right now, many of which are committed to installing the service on their entire fleet.  Fortunately, there is finally some competition in the market.  Sortof.

Row 44 has finally received approval from the FCC to have their relay system installed on airplanes operating in the United States.  Row 44 uses satellites, not terrestrial systems, so their coverage capabilities are significantly greater than those of Aircell’s gogo product.  Row 44 also has permission to operate in Canada and Mexico, meaning that an equipped plane can provide coverage throughout North America.  Not too shabby.

The only problem they’re facing is that they don’t have any customers yet.  Both Alaska Airlines and Southwest have been trialing systems from Row 44 but neither has committed to a larger deployment.  You can bet that Row 44 will be pushing hard for one of them to commit now that the systems are legal, but it is hard to know if that will happen anytime soon.

The other really nice thing about Row 44’s Ku-band satellite service is that it can integrate seamlessly with existing global satellite coverage.  These are the same systems that were being used in the Connexion by Boeing systems back in the day, and now they might be coming back in a hurry.  It would not be all that surprising to hear that the first customer for Row 44’s systems is not a US-based company.  Lufthansa has been very keen to get in-flight Internet back in service on their long-haul fleet.

This is definitely an exciting development in the world of in-flight connectivity.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.