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Southwest studies pricing models for in-flight Wi-Fi

Southwest Airlines this week will begin testing a variety of price points for the satellite-based in-flight connectivity service that is currently being offered for free on four of its Boeing 737s.

The low-cost carrier's trial of Row 44's high-speed Internet system has moved to a new testing phase, says Southwest in its latest blog. From 24 June, the connection cost will range from $2 to $12 and will be determined by the distance customers are travelling and the device they are using to connect.

"The cost to get online will be displayed when a customer launches his or her Internet browser and will be applicable to employees as well as customers," adds Southwest.

Alaska Airlines, which is trialling Row 44's system on a single 737, in April began evaluating pricing models for the service.

The company says in an online statement: "We are still assessing a number of different pricing and subscription models and intend on testing several of these models during our initial launch/test phase."

It says the connection speed varies depending on aircraft location, the number of passengers using the system and how they are using the system. Peak bandwidth is around 35 Mbps to the aircraft, however.

Row 44, meanwhile, continues to wait for permanent authority from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The California-based firm recently submitted its ground and in-flight test results to the agency, but requested confidential treatment of them.

Row 44 rival ViaSat - which has objected to the company's FCC application - agreed to a protective order whereby ViaSat has access to the test reports but must protect the documents and keep them confidential.

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