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Alaska Air testing airborne Internet

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Feb. 26, 2009 at 4:03 pm with No Comments »
February 26, 2009 4:03 pm

Alaska Airlines has begun testing a new airborne Internet system on one of its 737-700 aircraft on flights between Seattle and San Jose, Calif.

The tests will occur on one daily afternoon flight between the two cities, the SeaTac-based airline said.

During the test period, access to the Internet will be free. passengers with Wi-fi connections on their laptop computers, cell phones, personal digital assistants and other devices will be able to connection with the airborne system.

Alaska is using a satellite-based system developed by California’s Row 44. A small antenna mounted on the plane feeds signals to and from a satellite. That satellite beams the signals back to a ground station where it connects with the Internet.

The airline will test the system for about 60 days. If the test is successful, the airline will begin installing the system on more of its aircraft. No pricing structure has been announced for the broader service.

Several domestic airlines have begun providing Internet service to their passengers for a fee. Several of those use a system that connects via cell phone towers sprinkled around the country. Alaska chose a satellite system because of its ability to communicate with aircraft flying over remote regions and the ocean.

Alaska in the last year and a half has begun extensive service to Hawaii. It also connects remote cities in Alaska to Anchorage and the lower 48 states.

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