Every once in a while we all go to a meeting, see a presentation, or visit an industry show that is a significant event in our industry’s persona… this year it has to be Aircraft Interiors in Hamburg, Germany. Obviously a lot of our readers could not attend and we are aware of that fact. We planned to talk to as many folks as we could to provide some of the experience but the job is becoming so bigger than the IFExpress team… much bigger. From a numbers perspective, there were over 135 vendors (out of 500+) who featured inflight entertainment and/or connectivity. With the cabin interiors market growing at almost 9% per year, it’s no wonder that the IFEC portion of the show saw some 13% increase in space. We fully expect the final total number of show visitors to reach 10,000+ this year as a new best.

One of the first things that struck us was the preponderance of iPads. They were in the products, they were in the hands of the product demonstrators, and they were in the hands of visitors. They were everywhere. Yes, there were tablets too, and phones… but the world of mobile connectivity is here, but of course, you knew that. But it was obvious this year that the vendors and the airlines now know it as well. About the only thing we did not see with an iPad was a mechanical drop down frame for an iPad retractable IFE system. Wait till next year!

And speaking of trends, wireless connectivity is what the inside of the cabin is all about. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, data communication and cell frequencies will flood the cabin with information in forthcoming cabin solutions. This means that there is a huge amount of data about you and your preferences flying in every direction in the plane. We are quite interested in who owns that data, and believe us, everyone has a different answer about who does. We asked there and we will keep this question alive in future issues.

The first day of AIX (before the booth opening on day 2) holds a very interesting Passenger Experience Mini Conference. This meeting consists of a morning general session and splits into 4 afternoon plenary sessions.

Of particular interest in the morning session was Teague’s (Devin Liddell) presentation on “Co-Making”…the process of a brand (an airline in our case) collaborating with a like-minded brand in a different industry. What makes this interesting is the fact that they are not about traditional co-branding and more about breakthrough innovations. Here are some quotes that we found interesting:

  • “Partnerships are our most powerful currency.”
  • “The capacity to partner has a big impact on influencing the passenger.”
  • “We need to go beyond – we must make things together.”
  • “The old philosophy was co-branding = co-marketing. The new philosophy is co-branding = co-making. The concept is more about innovation together.”
  • “An example of a co-making scenario that exists today is JW Marriott and TSA.”

Editor’s Note: The above example places TSA approved and checked luggage in a secure storage at Marriott, thus providing more for Marriott customers.

If you made it to the Break Out Sessions the first day of PAXEX, you got a valuable inside to the connected passenger and the coming PED environment as well. In fact there is good and bad in the approach! First the good: The four Breakout Sessions were one of the best things at AIX and were titled: 1. Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity: A Voyage of Discovery and Opportunity, 2. Hospitality and Service – Making the Onboard Experience Memorable, 3. The Cabin: Getting Smarter about Space and Comfort, 4. Protecting the Brand: Cabin Maintenance. Which one would you go to? And that’s the Bad… one can’t go to them all, but there is an answer. The presentations are available here (they will cost you 50 Euros) and you can find them here: http://www.pexconference.com/Presentations/

And yes, we do have one story about the sessions. In Breakout Session 1, Angela Vargo of Southwest Airlines spoke about their use and focus on the value of gate-to-gate connectivity. After her presentation IFExpress asked if Southwest realized that with satellite connectivity, there was no antenna “shading” by buildings that ground-based connectivity towers face, a fact that was not mentioned in the presentation. “Boy do we,” she said emphatically! We guessed that was a marketing yes!

Next week we will start the booth coverage in detail and by then we hope to have Flicker images online (Just click on the Flicker image at the top right of IFExpress)… that is, if our bag arrives!

Expanding on LiveTV’s media and connectivity partnerships and technology initiatives to deliver live television over the Atlantic and then globally

MELBOURNE, Fla., June 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — LiveTV, a wholly owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways (Nasdaq: JBLU), is expanding its product and customer reach by adding global live television to its current leadership position of providing live television to over 500 commercial aircraft around the world. This new service named “GLOBAL LIVETV” utilizes a global network of satellite capabilities to provide live television programming (including live news and sports), for broadcast to commercial aviation aircraft equipped with LiveTV’s turnkey solution. Passengers will be able to view GLOBAL LIVETV channels through legacy onboard In-Flight Entertainment systems or on their own personal devices via onboard Wi-Fi. Initial service launch is scheduled for late 2012.

“Launching GLOBAL LIVETV is our next logical step for IFE&C,” said Glenn Latta, President of LiveTV. “Eleven years ago we launched our regional live television solution in the U.S. that revolutionized the passenger IFE experience. With this expertise in hand, the time has come for LiveTV to launch a global solution.”

Two key elements are finally in place with LiveTV’s partners to launch GLOBAL LIVETV. First, the company has all the content relationships in place; and second, they now have access to a global network of bandwidth that enables the service.

Initial launch will provide live television content over the Atlantic with three to five channels of live sports and news. Additional regions will be added to meet demand of specific customer needs to provide a global solution. The GLOBAL LIVETV solution combined with broadband internet will provide commercial airlines a true full suite of services to offer their passengers.

At almost every function that involves IFE, we bump into Massimo DeSanctis, CEO of PlaneBill. His Company, PlaneBill, is usually way ahead of the curve and that is probably due to the fact that he and his team are software developers. The Italian coders seem to have a feel for the passenger and airline cabin software, ofttimes before most of us see the need. This past AIX was not a disappointment and from the PlaneBill new product department they rolled out CrewPanel (a seating/inflight service app) and Plane Roaming, the Smartphone inflight communication solution. The CrewPanel “app”, is available on iTunes, and while ahead of itself, is a sneak peek into the eventual world of crew interface/messaging/control on an iPad. Plus, it is a good way for airlines/bizjet service providers to get a feel for the product prior to implementation.The other is a very clever way to provide inflight connectivity via passenger Smartphones in a Wi-Fi equipped aircraft. You might want to check out these links first:

The free iTunes App

PlaneRoaming diagram

PlaneRoaming Brochure

The CrewPanel App is self explanatory, it allows cabin crew to maintain the service status of passengers. When coupled with other airplane apps on a plane with ground connectivity, the possibilities for data massaging are unlimited – orders, frequent flyer status, inventory, duty-free, etc. The way we see it, apps like this are sample skill viewers and companies like PlaneBill use this example as advertising for future system development. Also, their inclusion in the iTunes library acts as advertising and sales promotion tools. We might also mention, PlaneBill stated that this type of development has benefit in many other transportation systems.

PlaneRoaming is another animal. It is the development of a multiple mode-ground-connectivity-solution-based development of a PlaneRoaming client on your Smartphone. While the development might be considered backward (software client first – infrastructure second), the concept is a very low cost email, SMS, VoIP, IM inflight connectivity solution – all as a function of which air-to-ground communication solution is chosen for the Wi-Fi equipped aircraft. Yes, we over simplified it, but we also think this solution, like the CrewPanel app above, is fodder for airlines and/or system providers to work with PlaneBill to develop specific solutions. Here is the kicker: “The air communication domain is fully controlled by the airline and uses onboard unlicensed wireless technology for the passengers’ devices such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, technologies which do not require the involvement of mobile operators – neither have licensing issues in most countries.” Look at the PlaneBill solution as a front-end and a back-end of an existing ground-based or satcom-based communication network. Think of the revenue possibilities!

We think you get the picture of just a few new technology-based communication advancements coming your way. While not a system provider, PlaneBill is just one of the “new way of thinking” companies and we thought their Vision Statement says it best for all in the IFE industry: “The technological advances in wireless communications technology as well as the availability of powerful multimedia enabled terminals, such as the iPad and Android tablets carried onboard by the passengers, will impact the future onboard architecture, with a shift from providing devices to providing access infrastructure and services. As in many other industry sectors, also in the airline industry we will see a paradigm shift from equipment to services. Instead of large upfront infrastructure investments, airlines and aircraft operators will provide a basic infrastructure consisting of power for passenger devices, wireless coverage for onboard services, one or more onboard servers, and air-to-ground connectivity. And, technological advances in passenger devices can be easily taken into account with this approach.” Well said, Massimo, that is the ‘take-way’ for this Hot Topic.

Hamburg, Aircraft Interiors Expo, 4 April 2011 — OnAir and Aeroconseil will, in the coming months, begin fitting nineteen B777 aircraft from the Singapore Airlines fleet with onboard GSM and Wi-Fi technology. Aeroconseil will cover the engineering and certification aspects of the changes alongside OnAir, which is providing equipment and the connectivity services to passengers’ mobile devices.

OnAir and Aeroconseil are working together on this major project to implement the communication systems for the long-haul fleet of their customer, Singapore Airlines.

Connectivity on board as easy as on ground
This project responds to the ambition of Singapore Airlines to offer its passengers a range of innovative services for maximum connectivity and therefore an extensive gateway to the outside world while travelling aboard its aircraft. To do this, the company will provide its customers with the latest tools for accessing wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) and mobile telephony services.
This technology provided by OnAir leverages Inmarsat SBB services.

“OnAir is delighted to work with Aeroconseil, which has an established reputation in the design and certification of inflight connectivity STCs. It is clear airline passengers increasingly expect to be able to use their mobile devices for calls, texting, emails and mobile data during flights. A seamless transition is growing between how we stay in touch in a taxi, on the train, at the airport and on the plane. As OnAir’s customer base expands to help airlines meet those passenger demands, we will continue to partner with expert specialists such as Aeroconseil,” says Ian Dawkins, Chief Executive Officer of OnAir.

The ability to share expertise in aircraft modification
The new technology is being installed thanks to Aeroconseil’s acknowledged expertise, particularly in the design and certification of such systems, an area in which Aeroconseil is a world leader.

Indeed, owing to its DOA (Design Organisation Approval) status, which means it can provide support up to certification of themodifications, Aeroconseil has quickly established itself as a reference partner for the leading providers of in-flight communications services, a sector in which OnAir is a key player.

“This contract acknowledges our ability to position ourselves at the forefront for new systems. Building on our proven skills in engineering and our expertise in certification, we are able to cater for even the most complex and innovative changes with strong implications for the aircraft environment,” says Stéphane Bollon, Sales Director in charge of the Air Transport activity at Aeroconseil.

New Magnastar™ system will add data, Wi-Fi and global coverage to the Airfone® network’s industry-leading voice services

MELBOURNE, Fla., Oct. 18 /PRNewswire/ — LiveTV Airfone LLC, TrueNorth Avionics Inc. and Satcom Direct Inc. have announced plans to develop and market a next-generation Magnastar™ system that will be the first terrestrial network to encompass voice, data, Wi-Fi, smartphone support, e-mail, text messaging and multichannel VoIP for a complete business solution. Available in 2011, the new Magnastar™ system will be based on a hardware concept derived from TrueNorth’s open-architecture Simphone OpenCabin™ system, and will be available both for new customers and as an upgrade for existing Magnastar™ operators. Service will be managed by Satcom Direct and will include Airfone®’s current voice and data services while adding Iridium satellite communications when the aircraft is out of Airfone® range.

TrueNorth and LiveTV will co-develop the new system’s hardware by combining a new Magnastar™ radio with TrueNorth’s advanced Simphone OpenCabin airborne telecom solution. The new system will use LiveTV’s exclusive 1-Mhz air-to-ground frequency license, which provides a dedicated spectrum allocation for these capabilities. Among the features that won’t change are the superior voice quality and broad coverage of Airfone®’s continental US (CONUS)-wide network. “It’s a perfect match of network, hardware and value-added services,” said Mike Moeller, VP of Sales for LiveTV. “It’s also a great way for both new and current Magnastar™ customers to affordably get the communications they want.”

Satcom Direct will be the service provider for billing and customer support, and will also provide customers with access to its other popular airborne business services, such as Global One Number and Flight Deck Freedom. “We love the low cost, simplicity and global reach of this product,” commented Jim Jensen, President and CEO of Satcom Direct. “Many of our customers have been waiting for a direct replacement of the Magnastar™ system to become part of our Global One Number service, and the next-generation Magnastar™ system will give them the quality they have always enjoyed while adding a wealth of new capabilities.”

Singapore’s national carrier will be the first Asian based airline to offer their passengers the complete range of inflight connectivity solutions

Geneva, Switzerland, 5 October 2010 – Customers travelling on Singapore Airlines flights will soon be able to stay connected at all times, even at 35,000 feet with OnAir’s inflight connectivity services based on Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband.

The multi-million-dollar collaboration with OnAir includes a full suite of onboard communication offerings, providing the Airline’s customers with access to Wi-Fi Internet and mobile telephony services. The mobile telephony services will enable customers to send and receive SMS text messages with their GSM-compatible mobile phones, send and receive email messages easily on Smartphones and Blackberry devices, and make and receive voice calls[1].

With plans to roll out the services from as early as the first half of 2011, Singapore Airlines will be the first major airline in Asia to launch a full suite of inflight connectivity services, following their tradition as leader in innovative passengers’ services. These will be introduced progressively on flights operated by the Airline’s Airbus A380, Airbus A340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

“Singapore Airlines was in fact one of the pioneers to introduce Internet connectivity on board its Boeing 747-400 aircraft in 2005. Today, with the increasing importance of staying connected, and the more affordable charges made possible by the higher usage and more advanced technology, we are now fitting all our long-range aircraft with the full suite of telephony and Internet features so that our customers can stay connected. Unlike the earlier trial introduction of an Internet service, this suite of features is for full implementation and we are pleased to offer this as an added choice to our inflight programme,” said Singapore Airlines’ Senior Vice President Product & Services, Mr Yap Kim Wah.

“The environment that our customers have gotten used to on the ground can soon be replicated in the air, when they fly with Singapore Airlines on aircraft fitted with this new connectivity platform. Travelling on business or pleasure, they are just a click or an SMS away, with access to live information, social networking and news updates, as well as inflight shopping.”

“We are absolutely delighted to have come to an agreement today with an airline of the stature and reputation of Singapore Airlines. The agreement is extremely significant. It sends a strong signal to the industry that inflight passenger communications has come of age – and is a must-have for airlines looking to remain competitive in the future,” said Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir.

Singapore Airlines’ connectivity partner OnAir has roaming agreements with about 200 mobile network operators globally, including the three main operators in Singapore.

Customers who use the mobile telephony services will see their usage reflected in the monthly bills from their home mobile phone operator where international GSM roaming rates apply. For Internet access, customers can sign up for an access package upon logging in to the system. Details of the charges will be announced closer to the launch.

Company Also Debuts New Value-add Inflight Internet Programs for Companies that Operate Business Aircraft

BROOMFIELD, CO – August 12, 2010 – Aircell, the world’s leading provider of inflight connectivity, today announced that the company’s air-to-ground high-speed Internet service for the business aviation market – formerly known as Aircell High Speed Internet – has been rebranded as Gogo Biz™ Inflight Internet.

The move will more closely align the company’s service in its two primary markets – business aviation and commercial airlines. The increased brand familiarity and new value-add programs will make it easier for travelers to enjoy the productivity-enhancing benefits of inflight Internet, regardless of the type of aircraft they’re aboard. An overview follows of the services available in each market.

· Gogo Biz™ – Inflight Internet for Business Aviation. Gogo Biz is the only solution in business aviation that provides a true high speed Internet experience with equipment that is small and light enough to fit on virtually any business aircraft. The system has seen record-breaking adoption, having been selected by major aircraft manufacturers including Cessna Aircraft Company, Dassault Falcon Jet, and Hawker Beechcraft, as well as major fractional and charter operators including Clay Lacy Aviation, Flight Options, XOJET and NetJets. Unlimited and usage-based service plans are available with monthly costs starting as low as $395.
· Gogo® – Inflight Internet for Commercial Airlines. Today, Gogo is available on nearly 1,000 airline aircraft operated by Aircell’s airline partners, including American Airlines, Virgin America, Delta Air Lines, AirTran Airways, US Airways, United Airlines, Air Canada and Alaska Airlines. Millions of passengers have used the service since launch, and additional aircraft are being equipped on a daily basis.

John Wade, Aircell’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, said, “The benefits of inflight Internet don’t discriminate by the type of aircraft you’re flying on. Immediately from the start, Aircell’s air-to-ground technology developed an enthusiastic base of loyal customers in the airline and business aviation markets alike. Now by sharing a common brand in both markets, it’s even easier for travelers to make that connection.”
New Inflight Internet Programs for Business Aviation

As part of today’s Gogo Biz announcement, Aircell is also launching three new cross-market programs for business aircraft operators. The programs provide additional convenience, value and savings to companies that utilize commercial airlines along with business aviation in meeting their overall travel requirements. Here is a summary of the three programs:

1. Corporate Discount Program. If your company operates a business aircraft with Aircell connectivity services, you are eligible for company-wide discounts on Gogo Inflight Internet purchases on Gogo-equipped commercial airline aircraft.
2. Aircell Black Cards. Companies that equip their business aircraft with Gogo Biz Inflight Internet service between now and December 31, 2010, are eligible to receive three exclusive Aircell Black Cards at no additional cost. Each Aircell Black Card gives one user unlimited complimentary Gogo service aboard any Gogo-equipped commercial airline aircraft.
3. No-Cost Demonstrations. Companies that operate business aircraft are eligible to try Gogo service on any Gogo-equipped commercial airline aircraft, free of charge. This allows operators traveling on airline flights to experience the same type of Internet service that is available from Gogo Biz aboard their business aircraft. This program is available to anyone that operates a business aircraft, whether or not they are a current Aircell customer.

Wade continued, “We’re very pleased to debut the three new crossover programs. Representing the first of their kind for our company, they provide value to corporate flight departments and personnel throughout their companies.” Full program details are available from your Aircell representative or by contacting Aircell at +1.303.301.3271 or sales@aircell.com.

Through its diverse line of airborne communications products, Aircell offers one of the business aviation industry’s largest selections of network services. These services span multiple technologies, including air-to-ground, low-earth orbit satellite and geostationary satellite.

Yes, we have probably mentioned the above sentiment a few times too many in the past, but it is becoming truer each day more technologies and channels are developed each year. Rewind to an article in AVIONICS magazine a couple year back when they noted: “Airlines and other users also want access to sub channels like mobile/cellular (GSM, GPRS, UMTS) networks, Wi-Fi, Wi-MAX and non-satcom broadband as a way to avoid UHF communications expense, particularly for ground operations. Such solutions, however, will require the integration of the aircraft with an airline’s IT network.” This observation is spot-on and this Hot Topic deals with the message in their second sentence. Bandwidth to and from the aircraft has historically been pricey, but it looks like a low cost, ground connectivity solution is now becoming a reality. And it has the potential to exist far cheaper than an airborne solution, while possibly driving the on-ground cost competition in the same direction. The solution is called GateSync, the result of a venture proffered by Thales, Proximetry, and CSC, and has been quietly tested in Europe and San Diego CA. Running on Wi-MAX, Wi-FI, and 3G, the airport wireless network basically talks to aircraft when the squat switch is activated. This might be a good time to mention that the system’s ground network infrastructure does not have to be in the airport on the airport property because of the longer range characteristics of Wi-MAX (see below).

A few years back when we interviewed Proximetry in the WAEA Thales booth, we got their pitch on their wireless connectivity and a slick antenna that easily fit in a window on each side of an airplane. We pegged them as RF types. That was not totally incorrect, however, but it is the Proximetry software that is the key to the kingdom here. If you check their website, note that the focus in on wireless network recourses that use “intelligent provisioning that aligns network resource priorities to users and devices, dynamic bandwidth allocation that assures services meet user expectations, and predictive routing and resource configuration that maximizes throughput.” In other words, it’s the network knowledge that’s key here. In an interview with CSC AirSync, Managing Director, Sergio von Borries, he told IFExpress: “We will be offering a wireless connectivity service that will challenge all forms of on-ground, digital communication to and from the on-ground aircraft. CSC will be handling the connectivity service and ground network infrastructure, while Thales has the ETWLU and antennae (airplane) hardware side, all of which are bridged by Proximetry software that resides on both ends of the link.”

The accompanying graphic pictorially sets the stage for almost any and every airline application. Aside from the hub-and -spoke analogy, the airline or third party supplier (think content) has the ability to deliver and monitor data to and from aircraft via a Network Operations Center virtual console on or remotely from the airport. Data users have access via the airline’s networks or via CSC’s global private network. There is even an interesting case (controlled by the network and Proximetry software) that uses another airline aircraft to “talk” plane to plane, in a ground situation where the airport network service does not exist. In all this, think “content’ because it is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, driver for implementation. No doubt, if you build a ground pipe, the applications, airline, aircraft, and passenger will come. Since the viability of an off-airport installation is real, there are some genuine cost and process efficiency gains for the airline, not to mention we are talking about servers, routers and multi-mode wireless hardware, all of which is industry standard and is COTS – as are Internet connections.

We queried Mr. von Borris about two additional subjects, standards and costs and he told IFExpress:

Standards: “My point is that we have worked VERY HARD to ensure that GateSync is all about industry standards – especially wireless networks and carrier standards. Gatelink is a specific solution and implementation (mainly using WiFi) and it has proven not to be scalable in terms of number of concurrent airplanes served, bandwidth and link integrity/reliability. These are indeed issues we believe we have bridged by having the domain expertise and intrinsic knowledge of these standards.”

Costs: ” As for service and implementation costs, the point is that pricing based on costs is exactly how current wireless solutions have not been able to close their business case and scale. Our approach is integrated across multiple OPTIMIZED wireless modes, and it is the only wireless offering that brings Quality of Service and Service Level Guarantees that help close the business case.”

There are still a lot of questions to be answered like aircraft hardware and service costs, scalability, and so on. We would have liked to see a price-per-bit analysis but there is jut no way to nail this number down without being able to analyze how each airline uses and costs the existing “tennis shoe” networks, value of total data (now and later), other processes and applications benefitting, not to mention a valuation of new passenger, maintenance and flight operations related services. Watch this one, Thales CSC, and Proximetry have a real winner here and this looks to be the right team at the right time. We think they need to get a bit tighter with the buy-in of other infrastructure players and this dog will hunt!

Wi-Max: Wi-MAX is an IP based, wireless broadband access technology that provides performance similar to 802.11/Wi-Fi networks with the coverage and service quality of cellular networks. The Wi-MAX acronym means “Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (Wi-MAX) and provides broadband access from 3 to 10 miles for mobile platforms.

For more info here is the Gatesync Brochure.

New TrueNorth system to be installed by BizJet International on all program completions

Ottawa, Canada (March 1, 2010) — TrueNorth’s new Simphone¯ OpenCabin system has been selected by BizJet, a specialized provider of custom VIP, corporate and government aircraft, as the airborne telecommunications solution for the Airbus A318 Elite program. Simphone¯ OpenCabin systems will include a Wi-Fi local area network (LAN), high-speed data integration, TrueNorth’s corded and cordless handsets with available credit card readers, and an option for Iridium worldwide Satcom service. Installations will be performed under an FAA/EASA STC at BizJet’s newly expanded completion center in Tulsa, OK.

“We were impressed with the range and depth of capability, as well as the quality and customization options offered by TrueNorth’s OpenCabin system,” said Kai Roepke, V-P Corporate Completions for BizJet. “Our VIP customers expect the best and latest features, and with full VoIP capability, walk-on use of their own Wi-Fi smartphones and an open architecture that accommodates literally every available airborne communications network, the Simphone¯ OpenCabin solution is the ideal fit for the A318 Elite program,” he added.

“We’re very pleased that BizJet, which specializes in supporting the most demanding operators, saw the value of choosing Simphone¯ OpenCabin for airborne communications solution,” said Mark van Berkel, TrueNorth’s president. “This contract is further confirmation that, with its unique ability to add features and stay current throughout the life of the airframe, as well as its enterprise-level security, Simphone¯ OpenCabin is the new standard in airborne business telecommunications,” he concluded.

A revolutionary software-centric concept, the Simphone¯ (pronounced ‘symphony’) OpenCabin system uses a suite of enterprise-level software applications (‘apps’) to bring advanced voice and data-management capabilities to business aviation. Since current hardware-centric airborne telecom systems are heavy, complex, expensive to install and prone to obsolescence, TrueNorth developed a converged solution that turns a company’s aircraft into an extension of its corporate IT and communications networks. Benefits include robust, ‘office-in-the-sky’ performance; an unlimited lifespan; significant long-term cost savings; and the ability to add a wide variety of custom functions by simply uploading software apps.

SEATTLE — Alaska Airlines today announced it will offer Aircell’s Gogo® Inflight Internet service on all Alaska’s aircraft.

With Gogo, Alaska Airlines passengers will be able to browse the Web; access online music, games, podcasts and webcasts; send and receive e-mail; and connect to virtual private networks while flying. The easy-to-use service will provide passengers with full Internet access on any Wi-Fi-equipped laptop or personal electronic device at speeds similar to wireless mobile broadband services on the ground.

“With more than 730 systems already flying, Aircell has a proven track record of deploying affordable inflight Wi-Fi services to airline customers,” said Steve Jarvis, Alaska’s vice president of marketing, sales and customer experience. “Their reliable, lower-cost equipment can be installed quickly, allowing Alaska Airlines to introduce Gogo service to our customers as soon as possible.”

Alaska and Aircell are currently working to install the Gogo service on a Boeing 737-800 and will begin testing to secure certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. Once Aircell’s equipment has been certified for Alaska’s 737s, the airline will start outfitting its entire fleet, beginning with its 737-800s serving longer routes.

“Alaska Airlines has a rich history of leveraging innovative technologies to create the best possible customer experience,” said Michael Small, Aircell’s president and chief executive officer. “We are proud they have selected the Gogo service to offer their customers a choice in how they spend their time while traveling. The ability to surf the Net and send e-mail will enhance the inflight experience for Alaska Airlines’ passengers.”

The Gogo system, currently available in the U.S. lower 48 states, will be offered to customers at a cost of $4.95 and up, based on length of flight and device used. To ensure the service is available to the airline’s namesake state, Aircell will expand its network to provide Gogo Inflight Internet service on flights to, from and between key destinations in the state of Alaska.

Last year Alaska Airlines successfully tested a satellite-based inflight Wi-Fi service offered by Row 44. However, the airline ultimately chose Aircell’s Gogo service to speed fleet-wide installation and Wi-Fi availability for customers.