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Surfing the skies

China Airlines signs for Boeing in-flight internet

China Airlines has become the latest Asian carrier to signal that it intends to equip its aircraft with a broadband internet system supplied by Boeing.

The agreement with the Taiwanese airline, which falls short of a firm deal, initially calls for the Connexion by Boeing service to be installed on China Airlines' long-range aircraft by late 2004, said Boeing in a statement. Connectivity for flights between Taipei and certain routes to Europe and North America are also covered by the preliminary deal.

Connexion by Boeing offers a high-speed satellite delivered data service to aircraft. Connection speeds vary with conditions but can be as fast as 20Mbps (megabits per second) downstream and 1Mbps upstream. The downstream path is split into four channels of equal bandwidth of which typically one would be given over to passenger internet use. Another is used to deliver live television and entertainment content to aircraft en route.

Boeing will charge passengers to use the broadband internet service and says it expects it will cost between £10 and £15 for a medium-haul flight of about three to five hours and between £20 and £25 on a long-haul flight for more than seven hours of access. Wireless LAN or in-seat ethernet sockets will be used to provide the connection to passengers' notebook computers or PDAs.

The airline joins Singapore Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA) on the list of carriers that have signed letters of intent to install the system. Firm deals have been signed with Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airline Systems and, most recently, Japan Airlines System (JAL).

The start of commercial service is expected during 2004.

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