Here’s an update since my last post about Airline Broadband Service to Hawaii.
Last week, Alaska Air pulled the plug on Row 44 Wi-Fi service, a Ku-band satellite-based system. The carrier opted instead for Aircell’s Gogo, a terrestrial-based service which has already been installed in over 700 aircraft.
Out the window with that choice went the likelihood of finding Wi-Fi on flights to Hawaii anytime in the near future.
Hawaiian has not made their intentions clear regarding Wi-Fi. When and if they do choose (and I suspect they will soon), we’ll likely see them select from one of the few viable over-water solutions of which I’m aware:
- eXConnect. Lufthansa has just signed on to use this by Panasonic Ku-based system to equip their fleet.
- OnAir. British Airways’ internet service provider, uses technology based on SwiftBroadband, and the latest high-bandwidth satellite technology from Inmarsat.
- Row 44. The Ku-band satellite Wi-Fi chosen by Southwest Airlines (but currently in use on only four planes).
Other carriers to Hawaii.
Air Canada, American, Continental, Delta, United and U.S Airways have all standardized on Aircell’s service, which is incapable of providing service beyond the continental U.S.
More Wi-Fi deployment issues.
It’s interesting to see how some carriers are rapidly deploying Wi-Fi while others are dragging their feet. Southwest, for example, originally indicated that they would have Wi-Fi throughout their nearly 600 plane fleet in early 2010. The latest word is that they’ll now start the rollout by June, but won’t complete it for another 2 1/2 years.
One problem is the lack of power outlets for laptops on planes. Most laptops can’t take full advantage of a long trans-Pacific flight without it.
The financial model for the airlines seems to remain unproven. Implementation cost is estimated at $100,000 per aircraft, and it still isn’t clear how many customers are willing to pay for Wi-Fi. Travelers, weary of ala carte pricing, certainly rebel against hotel Wi-Fi charges. Will the same prove true for Hawaii-bound and other air travelers?
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