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Wed 26 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Boeing’s jet set

Boeing adds more value for travelling internet users with its on-board wireless service. Users must bring their own equipment on to the plane to use the system.

Boeing demonstrated its Connexion service, which offers wireless internet in aircraft, to journalists in Dubai last month. Lufthansa and Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Company have already bought the system and Boeing hopes to see the service taken up by commercial airlines in the Middle East by the end of the year.

The Connexion system builds a wireless infrastructure into an aircraft that enables passengers to use mobile devices, such as wireless internet-enabled phones, PDAs or notebooks, to surf the internet, read and send e-mails and access a corporate VPN in flight.

The service comes with two pricing options. The flat rate option charges US$30 for unlimited access to the internet for long haul flights (more than six hours). Prices scale to US$20 for medium haul flights (between three to six hours) and US$15 for flights less than three hours. Alternatively, Boeing has a metered pricing option, that offers a 30 minute starter package for US$10 and charges US$0.25 for every minute of surfing after that.

“The service forms a great distraction on the plane and can help to cut down perceived journey time. It also lets you catch up with work e-mails while you are traveling. This saves you having to do it when you arrive tired in a hotel room,” says Terrance Scott, director of media relations at Boeing Connexion.

Boeing owns the Connexion technology and licenses it to airlines, providing equipment, billing, support and service. Connexion works in tandem with the InFlight Entertainment System (IFS) supplied by the airline. The system utilises satellite technology to connect to the internet, with a variety of transmitters and converters built in the aircraft’s fuselage. Information from the internet is then transmitted to each connected passenger using 802.11b protocol and wireless access points (APs), which were designed by Miltope for use in aircraft.

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