Alaska, Southwest urge FCC to approve Row 44's application

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Hoping to make in-flight broadband service "available to all of their passengers", Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines have urged the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promptly approve Row 44's application to operate an aeronautical mobile-satellite service (AMSS) in the conventional Ku-band segment.

Row 44's system is currently being trialled on a handful of Boeing 737s operated by the two carriers. However, permanent authority is required for Alaska and Southwest to move forward with fleet-wide equipage.

In a joint letter filed on 1 July with the FCC, lawyers for Alaska and Southwest say the expeditious grant of Row 44's application for a permanent license "will generate enormous benefits, including substantial work for almost a dozen technology companies all over the United States at a critical time in our economy".

Additionally, they note, competing airlines "are moving forward with their own in-flight broadband services, and Southwest and Alaska Airlines need to move forward promptly with their own in-flight broadband offerings".

Aircell's air-to-ground (ATG) system, dubbed Gogo, is now installed on over 360 aircraft in the US fleet. The company's customers include AirTran Airways, Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America. United Airlines is also scheduled to trial Gogo in the latter part of this year.

ViaSat, a competitor to Row 44, has long opposed the California-based firm's application, claiming interference issues.

An 11 May 2009 test report from Row 44, however, demonstrates that its satellite broadband system can operate without causing interference to other satellite services, say lawyers for Alaska and Southwest.

ViaSat, "has been doing everything it can to slow down or stop approval of Row 44's system, but the commission should not reward these anti-competitive efforts by further delaying a grant of Row 44's application", they say.

"The lone opponent to Row 44's application has presented no legitimate basis for further delay. Rapid action by the commission will set into motion the benefits for the economy, passengers and the airlines described above. Accordingly, Southwest and Alaska Airlines urge that the commission should move expeditiously to a grant of this application."