Boeing, 3 airlines launch in-flight Net deal

IDG News Service |  Networking

Aerospace vendor The Boeing Co. announced Wednesday that it has entered into a joint venture with three major airline carriers to offer two-way Internet broadband in the sky. [Note to editors: New information appears in bold.]

The new venture between Boeing, United Airlines Inc., American Airlines Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. will operate under the Connexion by Boeing name, offering two-way broadband e-mail, Internet, corporate intranet, live television and other entertainment services via satellites. The aircraft maker will be the major shareholder and take management responsibilities for the venture. The services will be offered to other airlines in addition to the three announced Wednesday.

The service, which is due to be available in the United States in mid-2002, will provide connection speeds of at least 56K bps (bits per second) per passenger at prices equivalent to cell phone costs, said Connexion by Boeing President Scott Carson during a press conference.

Under the deal between the parties, the three airlines agreed to install the service on an initial 1,500 planes, which the companies said represent more than 10 percent of the world's airplanes. In addition, all parties are due to contribute funding, intellectual property and other assets needed to carry out the venture, the companies said.

"People want to be connected and we don't plan to let seven miles of thin air stand in their way," said James A. Beer, vice president, corporate development and treasurer for American Airlines.

Hoping to woo the ever-increasing number of business travelers, the companies said that they plan to offer the service on both short and long flights and want customers to see planes as an extension of their homes and offices.

The parties are already negotiating with other carriers to provide broadband connectivity worldwide.

"I expect you'll see this on Airbus soon," said Boeing's Carson, referring to one of his company's main competitors.

Beyond providing travelers with connectivity for work and entertainment, the companies said that they also plan to offer online services that will make flying easier, such as access to airline and crew data not currently available through existing commercial channels.

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