Southwest to clarify in-flight broadband plan soon

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Southwest Airlines is still studying its options for in-flight connectivity solutions, revealing today that it has spoken to Aircell about the firm's Gogo broadband product.

Speaking at the World Airline Entertainment Association's (WAEA's) single focus connectivity workshop in Mukilteo, Washington, Southwest senior manager, flight operations technologies Doug Murri said the low-cost carrier has been "very pleased with the Row 44 system", which it has been trialling on four Boeing 737s.

"We have had no technical issues with the throughput, bandwidth and speed of that system."

However, Southwest has not committed to full fleet rollout of the Row 44 system. "We are watching the market and letting things shake out a little bit," says Murri.

Row 44 is operated over Ku-band satellites. The California-based company has a long-standing application to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permanent authority. With regard to Row 44's application, Murri says Southwest feels "very confident in that license [and] don't see any issues today". The carrier expects "that to be granted very shortly".

While licensing is "not as much of a factor", there are "numerous other factors" to consider when bringing a Ku-band-based system to market, says Murri.

"This is an expensive system, putting anything on an airplane is complex," he says, noting that "the economy right now is such that people aren't flying and they are not paying as much as any of us would like them to pay".

He adds: "There is nothing necessarily wrong with or an issue with Row 44 that has kept us from making a commitment beyond what we already have. We said very clearly at the beginning that we are doing a test. We look forward to hopefully in the coming weeks providing more information about what our plans are."