Aviation Daily reports that Row 44's satellite trial on Southwest Airlines bumped to mid-February: The industry publication says that Southwest will install Row 44's Ku-band satellite receiver on 3 Boeing 737s, and Alaska Airlines on 1 737. The trial was originally planned for launch by the end of January, but sources are saying that FAA approval is delaying launch.
These tests were originally announced for the middle of 2008, and I was talking to Row 44 about their launch plans way back in summer 2006. As with Aircell, innumerable problems have likely cropped up. Aircell's launch was pushed back about a year, and about 30 aircraft currently appear to have Aircell Gogo service on board. That number should climb above 100 within a couple months, and if it does not, questions will be asked.
Row 44 claims to have an affordable satellite solution that can deliver far higher data rates than the air-to-ground system Aircell is using. Further, Row 44 can serve over-water routes, which makes it quite appealing to Alaska, which flies a huge number of routes to its namesake state and to Mexico.
The huge spike in oil was certainly a delaying factor as airlines weighed every possible contingency and every ounce they were carrying.
The real issue for Row 44 is whether enough aircraft can be equipped, and whether their overhead structure for Ku-band transponder leasing and aircraft installation produces a real return. We'll see. Boeing tried it with far older, slower, and heavier gear; Row 44 has the 21st century advantage. [link via Joe Brancatelli]