Southwest Airlines will roll out a Row 44 Ku band-based connectivity trial on one Boeing 737-700 by the end of the year.
Trials will follow on three other -700s in the first quarter, Southwest senior VP marketing and revenue management Dave Ridley said today during the airline's media day.
Internet trials will run between 60 and 90 days on a mix of short-, medium- and long-haul flights across a variety of markets to get a good cross section, he says.
Internet speed will be 31Mb, similar to a high-speed home Internet connection or a reasonable office speed, senior manager flight operations technologies Doug Murri says.
During the trial, Southwest expects passengers to use e-mail and surf the Web. The Dallas-based company will consider how significant downloads impact usage.
Research shows passengers use the Internet for e-mail, weather forecasts and other destination information.
"Surprisingly, a lot further down the list is music and movies," Murri says, adding "Large downloads [will] not necessarily be disallowed."
The company is looking into the impact of mass movie downloads on customers with less demanding bandwidth needs, Murri says.
Southwest will conduct content filtering for offensive adult material during the trial, Murri says.
"We recognize [filtering] is not a perfect thing. Things will get through," he says.
While Internet connectivity will be free during the trial, the airline will charge for the service once it is rolled out across the fleet.
A tiered pricing system is under consideration based on flight length, with possible pricing models for frequent fliers, Ridley says.