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In-Flight Wi-Fi Blackout Still In Place Below 10,000 Feet

@denschaal

Oct 31, 2013 1:15 pm

Skift Take

Gogo’s air-to-ground Wi-Fi network has been rendered even more of a legacy system by the new FAA rules on portable electronic devices because Gogo would have make massive changes to it to make the Wi-Fi system work below 10,000 feet.

— Dennis Schaal

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Despite the FAA’s new rules enabling airlines to expand the use of portable electronic devices during flights, don’t expect to be able to turn on Gogo-powered Wi-Fi below 10,000 feet.

Gogo’s air-to-ground Wi-Fi system, used by Air Canada, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin America, is currently engineered to start working at 10,000 feet and that won’t be changing anytime soon, says Gogo spokesperson Steve Nolan.

The new rules would increase passengers use of laptops and tablets about 20 to 30 minutes per flights.

“The cost benefits likely aren’t there,” Nolan says, referring to Gogo’s willingness to reengineer the network. “But that’s something we are looking at.”

However, it is possible that its Gogo Vision in-flight entertainment lineup of movies and TV shows, currently in place on more than 300 American Airlines aircraft, would be reworked to kick in as soon as passengers board the plane, he added.

Meanwhile, Row44, which provides satellite-based Wi-Fi to Southwest, has always been set up to operate from the ground.

“Overall, the longer window of available usage will increase the benefit of the service to passengers, and gives our partners the opportunity to present a richer entertainment offering, especially for shorter flights, than we have had in the past,” says John Guidon, CTO of Row44 parent Global Eagle Entertainment.

Row44, though, says it isn’t privy to any information from Southwest it plans to change the 10,000 feet Wi-Fi standard.

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