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Swedish Airline SAS Will Test In-Flight Internet

[London, ENGLAND] Swedish airline SAS announced Wednesday it will test a wireless Internet system developed by Seattle-based Tenzing Communications that runs on-board aircraft.

Claiming it as a "world's first," SAS will also work with Telia Mobile in getting the system up and running. Telia Mobile has already installed networks for wireless services at airports and other public places so that travelers can be online at various stages of their trip.

Jan Olson, head of SAS products and service development, said the new wireless technology creates possibilities for SAS passengers to gain access to e-mail and Internet both on-board and on the ground.

"During 2001, all SAS lounges will be equipped with this wireless network. In future, we will also offer innovative services to make the customer's travel easier. Telia and Tenzing play key roles in this effort," said Olson.

Much pioneering work needs to be done before e-mail and Internet access become ubiquitous on passenger aircraft. Safety fears have been paramount in the minds of the regulating authorities, pending a proven system that separates flight communications and controls from the passengers' use of computers.

SAS intends to go ahead with a test of the Tenzing system during 2001. The test will give lap-top users access to an Internet server on-board the aircraft. In turn, the server will link to a ground station when the aircraft is airborne, with content being transmitted and updated at regular intervals.

E-mail and the Web represent just the first stage of what Tenzing plans for airline passengers. Developers believe they will be able eventually to implement broadband connections on-board aircraft using advanced satellite technology.