Yep, you read that right….Southwest Airlines joined the world of inflight entertainment this week when we launched a trial of wireless live television onboard five WiFi planes.
The evaluation of this exciting new product has actually been years in the making….going all the way back to 2009 when we announced plans to install Row 44’s satellite-based WiFi system on our fleet.
I’ll talk more about live TV in a moment but first an update on where we are with WiFi…
As of today, we have 251 planes installed with WiFi. By the end of this year, Southwest will have 417 WiFi birds representing over 70% of our fleet. Your odds of getting onboard a WiFi plane are definitely improving.
We chose Row 44 for its scalability, flexibility, and ability to grow with our network. We get to decide how it’s priced and sold in addition to what content we want to provide. We are currently priced at $5 a day per device.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve had triumphs and challenges with WiFi….not all together surprising considering the system is strapped to a metal tube, flying thousands of feet in the air while sending signals to and from space.
Let’s pause a moment and appreciate this colossal feat of engineering…..
That being said, we are working hard to continuously optimize and improve the experience. The explosion of tablets and mobile WiFi devices since 2009 means increased demand for bandwidth. In addition, we’ve had a few component replacements resulting in temporary outages and delays in installation.
The good news is that many of the kinks have been worked out. As a result, we are bridging the gap between in-flight connectivity and in-flight entertainment by being the first airline to offer wireless live TV. This isn’t your typical streaming experience….it’s instantaneous and high definition television delivered straight to your device. Our test launch consists of eight TV channels – all news and sports.
Fox Business News
Major League Baseball games via MLB.com
NBC Sports Network
NFL Redzone (available at the onset of football season)
We plan to monitor these five trial planes for a couple weeks and then roll out to 15 additional aircraft. If you’re flying with us soon, the Flight Attendant will announce if you’re on a live TV plane. Pending analysis, we plan to expand the live TV offering across our entire WiFi fleet by the end of the year.
A few more facts about live TV:
Live TV can be accessed from the WiFi portal and is available as a separate charge. Customers do not have to purchase WiFi to purchase live TV and vice versa.
Currently live TV is priced at $5 per day per device (same as WiFi) but we will be assessing a few different price points throughout the trial period. The price allows you to watch all available channels.
More info can be found at www.southwest.com/wifi
Live TV represents only the first step in the evolution of our inflight WiFi. Stay tuned to this channel, and we’ll bring you the breaking news as it happens.