n-flight broadband provider Row 44 reported Wednesday that it has raised $37 million in new equity, assuring there will be two competitive systems offering Wi-Fi service on North American commercial flights.
Row 44's deployment of its satellite-based Wi-Fi service had been delayed by regulatory holdups while competitor Aircell was rolling out its GoGo in-flight service on several airlines. GoGo utilizes a network of terrestrial cell towers. Earlier this year, Aircell reported it had raised $178 million to finance its service, which has been installed on more than 1,000 commercial aircraft. Earlier, Southwest Airlines announced it planned to install Row 44's service on its entire fleet of more than 500 passenger aircraft.
"This investment," said Row 44 CEO John Guidon in a statement, "gives Row 44 the operating capital to continue executing on our North American launch with the Southwest Airlines fleet and our aggressive network build-out, enabling us to support airline customers across the globe."
Row 44's service is supported by Hughes Network Systems satellites and the Wi-Fi provider has expressed an interest in offering its service on international flights beyond the US. Row 44 said its satellite-based service -- its so-called "hotspots in the sky" -- offer ultra fast broadband speeds to planes in flight.
In-flight Wi-Fi service has had a difficult past in the U.S. while the FCC, FAA and airline crew unions have successfully been able to block voice calling on U.S. flights. Boeing lost a reported $1 billion in its Connexion satellite-based service, which was praised by passengers using it on international flights. But the early equipment was heavy, cumbersome and expensive and Boeing dropped the service.
In Europe, OnAir's service -- based on terrestrial towers -- permits passengers to make voice calls.