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Keep your eye on Row 44 and the inflight WiFi entertainment platform it is starting to roll out, says Joe Sharkey, in-flight WiFi guru and New York Times writer.

Row 44 competes with inflight WiFi leader AirCell, which has installed its land-antenna-based Gogo WiFi system on about 1,100 domestic planes, with nine airline customers. Row 44, by contrast, is installing its satellite-based WiFi system on Southwest’s fleet of about 540 Boeing 737s, and also has Norwegian Air Shuttle as a customer.

Row 44’s strategy is to boost value by introducing a wide range of inflight entertainment and other services in a platform specifically designed for each individual airline – a “walled garden” approach. Southwest expects all its 550 planes to have Row 44’s service enabled by 2013. For now, the price is $5 per flight regardless of duration. There are no day passes or other discount. Row 44 also serves Norwegian Air, with “limitless bandwidth capacity.”

Glenn Fleishman reviews in-flight WiFi, especially AirCell, which uses a series of terrestrial antennas, and Row 44, which uses a satellite link, currently leasing capacity from HughesNet.

According to In-Stat, global Wi-Fi airplane deployments were predicted to reach a total of nearly 2,000 by the end of 2010. Total in-flight broadband equipment investment should approach half a Billion dollars globally by 2013, says In-Stat. Aircell says it’s Gogo service is currently on 1,087 aircraft, representing over half of all predicted aircraft WiFi deployments.

Aircell offers four kinds of unlimited monthly services, but a single pricing structure.

Delta operates the largest fleet of Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft in the world, with more than 2,200 flights daily, reports USA Today. Customers traveling on Wi-Fi-equipped Alaska Airlines planes can enjoy complimentary access to Facebook throughout the month of June. It’s part of a promotion with Gogo’s AirCell service. Alaska Airlines has a Facebook app whereby fans can play an instant win game for the chance to win free trips-for-two to Hawaii every Wednesday Alaskaair.com/wifi has more information about Alaska Airlines’ inflight Wi-Fi.

Row 44 is on Southwest and (still) on Alaska Airlines. Alaska flies a large number of overwater flights to both Alaska and Mexico, but changed their vendor from Row 44 to Aircell, after Aircell added several ground stations in Alaska. Southwest Airlines is sticking with satellite-based Row 44, charging only $5 for it’s initial Row 44 service.

Trans-oceanic travel, of course, requires a satellite link, since there aren’t many cell towers in the middle of the ocean. That’s why OnAir uses Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband system, which provides connectivity over the oceans. OnAir has over 30 announced customers worldwide, on four continents, including British Airways, Egypt Air, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, TAP Portugal and Wataniya Airways.

JetBlue is partnering with ViaSat using ViaSat’s Ka-band satellites and ‘SurfBeam2′ terminals on its fleet of more than 160 aircraft.

The first installations are expected to begin in 2012 using Viasat’s spotbeam satellites, WildBlue-1 and ViaSat-1. A Proton rocket is scheduled to launch ViaSat-1 at the end of July. It’s expected to be the highest capacity North American satellites by far, with 10 times the throughput of any other Ka-band satellite.

JetBlue has 1.6 million followers on Twitter, more than any other airline, and about 500,000 fans on Facebook. JetBlue is on Facebook Places and is planning a smartphone app this year.

Panasonic Avionics is testing its Ku system on Lufthansa aircraft and expects to launch revenue service soon. Lufthansa will make use of their existing onboard hardware that had been installed in 2003 by Connexion by Boeing, the now defunct provider of the airline’s previous onboard connectivity system.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Delta Expands Inflight WiFi, Alaska Airlines Gets Free WiFi, Airplane WiFi: Slow to Take Off, Alaska Airlines Goes with Aircell WiFi, AirCell Powers American & Virgin Airlines, Free Plane-Fi, American Airlines & Southwest: Inflight Wi-Fi Fleetwide, Shipboard AIS Gets a Satellite Swarm, AT&T CruiseCast Live for Vehicular Television, Virgin America: Wi-Fi for All, PlaneFi Roundup.

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