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Southwest Expands In-Flight Wi-Fi

Southwest Airlines announced last week that it will provide fleet-wide in-flight wireless Internet service next year. The airline has been testing Wi-Fi on four of its planes this year. As previously covered in RF Report, its service provider, Row 44, received an FCC blanket license for 1,000 technically identical aeronautical mobile satellite service transmit//receive earth stations aboard commercial and private aircraft. Row 44 uses Ku-band transponders on satellites Horizon 1, AMC-2 and AMC-9 to provide Internet connectivity to the planes in-flight.

"We have concluded our testing for in-flight Wi-Fi and are very happy with both the technical performance of the system and the response of customers who have used it," said Dave Ridley, Southwest Airlines senior vice president of marketing and revenue management. "We are pleased to be continuing with our plans to offer satellite-enabled broadband access through California-based Row 44."

Many other airlines have selected AirCell, a terrestrial based system, for in-flight Internet. AirCell uses frequencies previously licensed for in-flight telephone services such as "Airfone." While the Row 44 system will have greater latency due to the distance to the satellites, it has the advantage of working when an aircraft is over water and out of range of ground stations.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.