Vodafone to link with Boeing in-flight Internet

Vodafone Group PLC will start Internet roaming trials this month with Connexion by Boeing, The Boeing Co.'s in-flight broadband Internet service, the companies said Thursday.

Connexion by Boeing uses a wired or wireless LAN on board commercial airliners to connect users to the Internet via a satellite system on board the aircraft. The connection, shared among passengers, has a downstream bandwidth of 5M bps (bits per second) and an upstream bandwidth of 1M bps.

If Vodafone decides to offer its own services on Connexion, Vodafone customers with a suitable PC or PDA (personal digital assistant) will be able to use their Vodafone service by logging into it through the Connexion by Boeing portal, said Matthew Nicholson, a spokesman for Vodafone K.K., the Japanese unit of Vodafone.

"It's all about billing," he said. "Any Vodafone customer would be able to get our branded services without the inconvenience of getting billed by another party."

The companies didn't say how long the trials would last. If they are successful and Vodafone decides to launch the service it will probably be available first on Lufthansa AG flights in and out of Europe, the companies said. It will likely be targeted at Vodafone's business customers, Nicholson said.

Connexion by Boeing launched in May 2004 on one Lufthansa route, with the German airline expanding availability to other routes over the subsequent months.

Boeing has already signed roaming agreements with a number of communications services companies including iPass Inc., Infonet Services Corp., NTT DoCoMo Inc., NTT Communications Corp., Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and StarHub Pte. Ltd., it said.

It has signed agreements to provide Connexion by Boeing services to China Airlines Ltd., Singapore Airlines Ltd., All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd. , Japan Airlines System Corp, and SAS AB's Scandinavian Airline Systems. Preliminary agreements have been signed with Korean Air, Asiana Airlines Inc. and two other unannounced airlines, according to Boeing.

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