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Surfing in the sky

Boeing signs more airlines for in-flight internet

Japan Airlines has signed a deal with Boeing for it to install its Connexion in-flight internet system into some JAL aircraft from 2004. Wednesday’s deal came a day after Singapore Airlines signed a letter of intent with Boeing to install the same system.

The deal with JAL, one of Japan's two major airlines and the first Asian carrier to make a firm deal to install the system, should see the service become available on routes between Japan and London from December 2004. Routes between Japan and Europe and Japan and the Americas should follow.

The Connexion by Boeing service provides passengers with a satellite broadband internet connection for use with their notebooks or PDAs. The connections will operate via in-seat Ethernet ports or onboard wireless LANs.

Transmission speeds will vary with conditions but can be as fast as 20Mbps (megabits per second), said Scott Carson, president of Connexion by Boeing.

At least a quarter of the bandwidth will be reserved for carrying passenger data, another quarter devoted to TV broadcasts, a quarter for airline use and the final quarter as a buffer to provide extra bandwidth to the other applications when needed, he said. The upstream channel off the aircraft is an impressive megabit per second.

The system puts no restrictions on applications that can be run, though there is the ability to shut off or restrict users if they become "bandwidth hogs," Carson said.

Carson expects the service to cost between US$15 and $17 (about £12 to £15) for a medium-haul flight of about three to five hours and between $25 and $30 (about £18-24) on a long haul flight for more than seven hours of access.

All Nippon Airways is currently discussing a similar service with Boeing, BA is evaluating the system and Boeing has already signed firm deals with Lufthansa and Scandinavian Airlines.

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