It’s Friday night and I’m combing through filings to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). I assure you that this activity does not top the list of things I’d like to be doing right now. But the sense of urgency in Row 44 and antenna maker AeroSat’s latest pleas to the regulator is palatable and contagious. As you know, Row 44 is poised to begin in-flight trials of its Ku-band-based connectivity system on Boeing 737s operated by Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Yep, that’s a Southwest 737 with the radome to the right (photo credits below). And so there is no time like the present to tell you the following:
Let’s start with AeroSat, a plucky New Hampshire-based firm that has invested millions of dollars in the development of technology to support Row 44′s in-flight Internet system, including the radome, antenna, and plenty of associated hardware. The company is now all but begging the FCC to approve Row 44′s applications without delay.
“As a small business, we ask the commission to appreciate that in the current financial climate, additional delay will severely degrade our financial health and place at risk the likely long-term benefits to the aviation industry of a next-generation airborne Internet capability,” says AeroSat CEO Michael Barrett in a letter to the agency.
Barrett is particularly concerned that the FCC will agree to a proposal by Row 44 rival ViaSat – as well as ViaSat partner KVH and Echostar Satellite Corp – to require the California-based firm to work with its detractors to design ground-based tests to evaluate the system and prove that it does not pose a threat of harmful interference.
But AeroSat insists that further ground testing “and further hurdles” are not necessary to ensure the protection of satellite communications from interference. “Rather, additional hurdles and ground test requirements would only serve to hinder this project,” says Barrett.
For its part, Row 44 is willing to do more testing, only it wants to do that testing in the air. Hoping to quell any lingering concerns, it has submitted a test plan to the FCC that calls for the firm to share with geostationary operators data derived from in-flight testing.
With respect to its commercial trials, Row 44 vows to “notify all users of it in-flight broadband capability that the service is being offered on a trial basis, and that final FCC approval to operate on a permanent basis has not yet been obtained”.
How does the Strawbs song go? So close and yet so far away..
(Photo of Southwest 737 with radome taken by gTarded at http://www.flickr.com/photos/gtarded/3210432763/ )