Company awarded $2.2m to help get Internet on planes

HUDSON – A local company will be paid $2.2 million to play a small role in bringing the Internet to airlines.

Micronetics of Hudson announced that its subsidiary, Microwave Concepts, has been contracted to build tiny but crucial components called microwave subassemblies.

“We’re one of the building blocks . . . to enable these larger systems and subsystems to operate,” Kevin Beals, president of Micronetics, said.

Micronetics isn’t the only local company to contribute to the race for Internet access in the air. A Nashua company called AeroSat has developed an antenna assembly that ables two-way signals from satellites.

But neither company was involved in last month’s first-ever Wi-Fi rollout in a commercial airplane. That job went to AeroSat competitor Aircell, which operates signals from the ground with a network of cell towers.

On Aug. 20, American Airlines launched Aircell’s service on three nonstop flights: New York to San Francisco, New York to Los Angeles, and New York to Miami. Other major airlines have announced plans to introduce wireless Internet to commercial and business customers. Delta recently said it would offer Aircell’s service on all its domestic flights in 2009.

AeroSat created antennas that brought TV to airplanes before expanding to broadband technology for the skies, but has not yet announced a commercial customer.

Micronetics declined to provide the name of the manufacturer that awarded the $2.2 million contract, but Beals said it is a New Hampshire company. AeroSat is one of Micronetics’ largest customers.

A statement from Micronetics released Thursday said Federal Aviation Administration approvals are needed before wide-scale deployment of the system, but the company has completed testing and the company expects to ship the order within the next six months.

Micronetics, operating through its Defense Electronics Group, designs and manufactures microwave and radio frequency components and integrated subassemblies used in a variety of defense, aerospace and commercial applications.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved rules that allow broadband services, like Aircell’s, that use air-to-ground frequencies. Those services were previously used strictly for seat-back telephone service.