Alaska Airlines opts for satellite over Aircell service

Alaska Airlines says it plans to join other airlines in offering broadband Internet access on its aircraft, but instead of opting for Aircell's Gogo service, it has chosen to use satellite service from Row 44, which offers an in-flight broadband service based on Hughes' satellite network system.

"The reason we went with that direction is (Aircell) doesn't work for us going to Mexico, Alaska, or Hawaii," Alaska Airlines CIO Robert Reeder said in an InformationWeek interview. "We wanted a service that we could really offer anywhere." One of the company's primary routes, Seattle to Anchorage, has very limited cell tower access, Reeder said. Aircell's business model involves cell towers that transmit with airplane antennas.

Alaska has said it plans to roll out Row 44's service across its fleet beginning this year. Southwest Airlines is also testing Row 44's service. Meanwhile, American Airlines this week launched Aircell's Gogo mobile broadband service on three coast-to-coast flights, making the service available for $12.95 per flight on its 15 Boeing 767-200 aircraft. The service is still considered to be in test mode, however.

Earlier this month, Delta Airlines took the plunge as the first U.S. airline to offer in-flight WiFi access on a substantial number of aircraft. The company said it will soon WiFi-enable some 330 domestic aircraft, offering Aircell's Gogo service for $9.95 on flights of three hours or less and $12.95 on flights of more than three hours.  

For more:
- check out InformationWeek

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American Airlines launches WiFi on some coast-to-coast flights. American Airlines story
Aircell chooses LTE for in-flight broadband. LTE story