Boeing Plans to Put the Internet in the Air

If Boeing has its way, road warriors soon won't have to suffer the agony of Web or e-mail withdrawal while on a commercial air flight.

Seattle-based Boeing has announced plans to develop a satellite-fed global communications network that will provide Internet connections and a variety of multimedia services to the world's airlines.

The airplane manufacturer said its Connexion by Boeing broadband services initially will be offered to airlines serving North America, but a worldwide rollout is planned.

In addition to providing access to corporate intranets and the public Internet, Boeing said it has signed agreements with CNN and CNBC, to provide live in-flight programming. It's also negotiating with other content providers.

The company didn't disclose a scheduled start date for the North American service, nor did it announce any airline partners that have signed up to use the service. Boeing also didn't provide pricing details, but cruise lines that offer satellite-based Internet-at-sea services charge passengers $US45 per hour.

Boeing sees big bucks in providing broadband services to the 3 million passengers who board some 43,000 flights on its aircraft daily. The company cited analyst projections that the market for such services could be worth $US70 billion over the next 10 years.

Phil Condit, Boeing's chairman and CEO, said the company "intends to be a leader in the new mobile economy - and that means helping our airline customers and their passengers stay globally connected at all times."

The Skynet unit of Loral Space & Communications will provide Boeing with digital broadband circuits from its Telstar satellites for the new service. The Loral Skynet satellites can provide coverage to all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, South America and northern and southern Africa.

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