The in-flight broadband firm is yet to launch commercial U.S. service with a carrier, but just took in $37m more in funds: Row 44 launched itself several years ago as a Ku-band in-flight Internet provider for airlines that would make use of the many gains in antenna and receiver technology since Boeing's failed Connexion effort was designed, launched, and cancelled.
In the intervening years, the company signed up Southwest Airlines, but has yet to launch service commercially; it snagged Alaska Airlines, only to lose it to Aircell's Gogo Inflight Internet. Alaska made perfect sense for Row 44, given that Aircell cannot provide over-water coverage for Alaska and Mexico routes offered by the airline.
However, Aircell agreed to add many sites in the state of Alaska, and will at some point deploy in Canada via a partner as well.
Row 44 had a dilemma, from what I heard. It lacked the cash on hand to build out Southwest's service, and Southwest wasn't inclined to be the backer. With the additional money, I expect we start seeing Southwest Wi-Fi in the near future.
Aircell recently crossed 1,000 planes outfitted and in the air, and 2,000 is likely by the end of 2011. Row 44 has catching up to do, but it still has unique advantages for over-water and international flights.
OnAir was once a significant competitor in this market, but frittered away its huge lead time, and has only a handful of operator networks focused on mobile service (texting and email) rather than Internet access.
(Row 44 needs to spend a couple of dollars on its Web site. The press release and news sections are out of date.)