INTERIORS: Row 44 to offer higher connectivity data rates

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Row 44 has revealed that its new in-flight connectivity system - which is being fitted to Southwest Airlines' entire fleet - is poised to provide data rates much higher than those currently on offer.

The California-based company's connectivity system uses Ku-band transponder capacity and is capable of supporting more than 8 mbps TCP/IP plus 15 UDP to aircraft. But Row 44 is in the process of developing a two-slot modem based on partner Hughes Network Systems' technology that will ultimately offer more than 35 mbps UDP to the aircraft "without affecting at all that 8 mbps TCP/IP", says head of business development Frederick St Amour.

Row 44's new antenna partner Tecom teamed with German firm Qest to develop the new KuStream 1000 antenna that is now being installed on Southwest Boeing 737s. Previously, an Aerosat antenna was deployed on Row 44's system.

The promised boost in capacity would allow passengers to access ultra-high-speed Internet, movies, live television and GSM/GRPS functionality, while airlines could avail of operational services such as electronic flight bag connectivity, cashless cabins and Medlink.

Equipage on Southwest's fleet "will commence in earnest" next month, says St Amour. The carrier has said it intends to equip 15 aircraft per month, and ultimately expand to 25 aircraft per month.

In Europe, Norwegian will begin installing the Row 44 system on its Boeing 737-800s after the summer. The launch is occurring later than planned because "the STC process with the FAA has taken an unusually long time", says St Amour. South African carrier Mango is expected to launch Row 44 service by year-end.