Southwest installs wireless Internet

Southwest Airlines has begun adding wireless Internet access to its fleet of Boeing 737s.

The airline said today it already has installed the proper equipment on 13 of its planes. It plans to have 60 aircraft equipped for wireless access by the year’s end.

Southwest is installing a satellite-based system designed by California’s Row 44. That’s the same outfit that SeaTac’s Alaska Airlines had picked to equip its fleet with Wi-Fi access.

Alaska, after taking a stake in Row 44, switched its intended provider to Aircell’s Gogo cell tower-based system early this year.

Alaska had originally picked Row 44 because its satellite system promised access to planes flying over remote areas of Alaska and over the Pacific Ocean on flights to Hawaii.

Row 44’s system was late in deploying, and the Aircell system proved less expensive to install. Aircell said it will install transmitters in Alaska to provide service there. The trans-ocean flights still are a problem for the ground-based system.