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Boeing Strikes Content Deal for In-Flight Web Service

Boeing Co., pushing strongly to become the first widely-available airborne broadband ISP through its Connexion by Boeing service, Monday moved to expand the content available on the service through a deal with ScreamingMedia Inc.

Under the terms of the agreement, ScreamingMedia will aggregate licensed content -- including worldwide, national and local news, sports and features -- from more than 3,000 publications in its digital content network. It will then filter, deliver and instantaneously integrate the content into the Connexion by Boeing service.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

"This content complements our full Internet/company intranet access and infuses the Connexion by Boeing service with the time-sensitive data you need to stay informed in a global manner," said Ric Vandermeulen, director of strategy and marketing for Connexion by Boeing. "Secondly, it allows us to provide regional, customized content using a forward-looking technology solution."

ScreamingMedia will deliver its own content and its technology solution software will be used to deliver pre-contracted third-party content as well. The company said its ContentEngine technology will parse, normalize, process, customize and integrate the content as part of the delivery process. The content will be used to supplement live television and radio content, as well as flight-specific information, Boeing said.

ScreamingMedia is not alone. Boeing has been expanding its network of partners -- both content and service providers -- in an effort to add value to the service. The company has already signed memoranda of agreement with CNN Inflight Services, Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Alenia Spazio, Loral Skynet Matsushita Avionics Systems Corp. and CNBC.

The Connexion by Boeing service is a drive to extend home- and office-like connectivity to airline passengers. The mobile broadband service is expected to be priced comparably with cellular phone service, and will offer passengers access to the Internet, e-mail, television news and information in real-time, and advance over the less costly narrowband cached Internet and e-mail capabilities offered by competitors in the space like Tenzing.

Boeing's solution extends the capabilities of a Network Operations Center (NOC) to a satellite orbiting at about 23,000 miles. Information is uplinked from the NOC to a satellite, which then downlinks the information to an aircraft via an antenna mounted on the fuselage. The antenna remains in constant contact with the satellite, even when the plane is moving at 600 miles per hour. The downlinked information goes to an on-board server and the signal is then routed to individual seats on the aircraft.

Boeing Chief Executive Officer Phil Condit, who utilizes the service aboard his business jet, is apparently one the biggest advocates of the service. Terrance Scott, director of Media Relations for Boeing, told InternetNews.com in April that Condit frequently says he spent more than 70 full working days in the air last year.

Meanwhile, Tenzing maintains that narrowband, cached systems remain attractive due to price issues. And competition is sure to grow fiercer with Boeing arch-rival Airbus set to unveil its own system -- said to include both broadband and narrowband capabilities -- at the Paris Air Show in June.