Row 44, WirelessG aim to offer Wi-fi to South African carriers

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Broadband company WirelessG is preparing for ground-based proof of concept testing of Row 44 hardware for in-flight connectivity as the South African company aims to offer Wi-fi to carriers based in the country.

WirelessG has partnered with Row 44 to sell onboard internet connectivity to carriers throughout Africa, and the parties will share all revenue produced by the venture, Row 44 vice president of business development Frederick St.Amour says.

African operators will be able to equip their fleet for high-speed connectivity across multiple countries and over water as the Row 44 system utilises the Ku-band-based satellite network to provide in-flight connectivity.

WirelessG, which already sells a pre-paid Internet product known as G-Connect, will charge for onboard connectivity, and G-Connect customers will be able to use their current G-Connect accounts to access in-flight Wi-fi.

G-Connect customers will also be able to pre-load content on their account prior to their flight to access the content in-flight, St.Amour says.

WirelessG will integrate its billing platform with the Row 44 hardware installed on an aircraft, and the billing platform will connect via satellite to WirelessG's on-ground billing system to provide airline passengers web browsing, email access, VPN connectivity and web-based SMS.

WirelessG is in discussions with several South African carriers to provide Row 44's satellite-based broadband in-flight, WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe says in a statement. Van der Merwe did not identify airlines.

In addition to ground-based proof of concept testing, WirelessG will also operate an aircraft trial with whichever carrier signs on first, a Row 44 spokesman says, adding South African operators would likely offer connectivity on domestic and intra-African flights.

Once connectivity deals are finalised with South African operators, supplemental type certificates (STCs) for various aircraft types must be obtained from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Due to a bilateral agreement between the USA and South Africa, Row 44's existing STCs can be transferred from the FAA to the CAA, St.Amour says.

The transfer may take a couple of months and may require a test flight, he explains.