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E-mail Takes Off

[Sydney, AUSTRALIA] It seems e-mail will beat phone connectivity in the air, with the announcement that an inflight e-mail system will begin trials in November aboard two Singapore Airlines aircraft.

The trial will offer e-mail via a satellite-based communications network, the first in the world according to the company, who said earlier trials conducted by other airlines have been restricted to areas over land, using ground-based communications systems.

The first system, developed by Tenzing Communications (Inflight Communications Services) will begin operating on a trial basis in November. A second system, developed by Honeywell, and known as Total Aircraft Information System, will begin trials in December.

Initially, Singapore Airlines said the services will be tested on aircraft which fly predominantly trans-Pacific and to other long-haul destinations to provide greater opportunity to test the system's potential.

In addition to providing e-mail access, the system will allowing Web browsing from a cache, downloaded prior to departure, which the airline said will feature thousands of Web pages.

"We understand how important it is for our customers to stay connected, even when they are traveling at 35,000 feet," said Singapore Airlines' senior vice president of marketing services Yap Kim Wah.

"Our aim is to allow our customers high quality e-mail and Web access from anywhere in the sky at any time," he said. "This is the first step towards creating our 'CyberCabin' of the future."

Singapore airlines is investing $200 million over the next two years on developing CyberCabins, with e-mail and Web access among the fundamental features.

The initiative is in line with the airline's vision of providing connectivity to its customers from the ground and in the air. The airline recently introduced SIA Mobile Services, allowing customers WAP access to flight information, soon to be extended to PDAs.



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