The battle between Boeing (Hall 1, Stand D10) and Airbus (Static display) has moved from airspace to cyberspace, with both companies announcing quantum leaps in commercial airborne Internet access. Boeing has announced that American, Delta and United Airlines plan to offer its high-speed Connexion service on 1,500 of their aircraft. Although no firm launch date has been set, Connexion is intended to enable passengers to check email, download documents, access corporate intranets or surf the Web in-flight and at high data speeds. "Boeing 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," says Boeing chief Phil Condit. Rival Airbus has acquired a 30% stake in US company Tenzing, which has a proven but slower system ready to be adopted by three airlines later this year. Connexion by Boeing, as the US company's service is dubbed, is intended initially to deliver two-way Ku-band access at 5Mbit/sec receive and 1.5Mbit/sec transmit. It is expected to cost the user around $20/hr, with the airlines getting a percentage. Boeing has invested "north of $100 million" and expects to get its money back in less than four years, although roll-out has been delayed until the middle of next year by negotiations on revenue-sharing. Boeing is looking for a 10% share of a market worth about $45 billion over the next nine years. Meantime, Airbus is in partnership with Tenzing Communications to offer in-flight email and Internet access. Airbus is acquiring a 30% share in Tenzing which will become its preferred supplier of passenger data communications. Tenzing's software enables passengers to send and retrieve email at 128kbit/sec via their own laptops and L-band air-to-ground satellite links. A Ku-band upgrade to higher data speeds is promised once it becomes economically viable. Cathay Pacific Airways, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways are due to equip their aircraft for Tenzing service later this year. These Airbus and Boeing moves fly in the face of previous in-flight Internet developments. Honeywell (Hall 5, Stand B11) recently announced that it was "re-evaluating" its Total Aircraft Information System (TAIS) for the air transport market. It's the same story at Rockwell Collins (Hall 4, Stand B4), where the InFlight Network has been quietly placed on the back burner. With both Boeing and Airbus upping the stakes, both projects might now be dusted.

Source: Flight Daily News