Aircell to expand ATG network to Alaska

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Aircell is expanding its air-to-ground (ATG) network in Alaska to ensure customer Alaska Airlines can offer Gogo in-flight Internet service in its namesake state.

Chicago-headquartered Aircell will expand its network "by early 2011 to provide Gogo in-flight Internet service on key routes to, from and within the state of Alaska", reveals Alaska Airlines in a statement.

Developing an ATG network in Canada to support both Alaska Airlines' plan as well as the roll-out of Gogo on Air Canada's domestic fleet has taken longer than expected, however. Aircell must first reach agreement with Canada's ATG spectrum license holder, SkySurf.

"Our goal is to enable US and Canadian airline passengers to access the Internet while flying over both the countries. Aircell expects to have a formal agreement in place with SkySurf soon," says an Aircell spokeswoman.

"As the Canadian ATG licensee SkySurf is authorised to rollout the ATG network across Canada. The agreement will provide for seamless inter-operator roaming across the border."

Alaska Airlines is among several customers of Aircell's Gogo service. The carrier is now offering Gogo on more than half its fleet, including all 55 of its Boeing 737-800s and 10 of its 737-900s. It plans to ultimately offer Gogo fleet-wide.

Passengers can use the Gogo service free-off-charge until 31 July, under a sponsorship deal between Alaska and the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card.

Thereafter, the Gogo service will be offered to customers at Aircell's standard pricing of $4.95 per flight and up, based on length of flight and device used.

Aircell, meanwhile, is "thrilled" with its overall usage rates to date. "In fact, repeat usage rates have been telling for Aircell, as we've found that 61% percent of Gogo customers have used it again within three months," says the spokeswoman.

"Gogo usage continues to grow as more and more aircraft are equipped with Gogo - today nearly 1,000 aircraft are equipped and Gogo is on more than 3,500 flights per day, giving more consumers the chance to utilise it making plane time their time."