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Connexion Gets Boost with ITU Spectrum Allocation

The Boeing Connexion by Boeing business unit has gotten a boost with the approval of a new frequency allocation for aeronautical mobile satellite service by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations.

During the World Radiocommunication Conference -- 2003 (WRC 2003), hosted by ITU in Geneva last week, delegates from ITU member countries approved the extension of the secondary mobile satellite service allocation, which covers the 14-14.5 GHz band, to include aeronautical mobile satellite service.

Boeing hailed the decision as paving the way for the introduction of its in-flight, high-speed information service, as well as other satellite-based services, into the global communications market.

"Clearing this critical hurdle paves the way for global introduction of our high-speed in-flight connectivity service beginning next year," said Scott Carson, president of Connexion by Boeing.

ITU, which is mandated with coordinating and harmonizing the use of global telecommunications networks and services among member countries, convenes the WRC every three to four years to outline spectrum-dependent applications and services that drive technological development.

"This authorization follows three years of intensive effort within the ITU study groups, which concluded that aeronautical mobile satellite services, such as Connexion by Boeing, can operate without causing harm to other users of the frequency band," said Karen Gielen, executive director of International Regulatory Affairs for Connexion by Boeing. "It also represents a positive and proactive attitude by ITU member states regarding the introduction of innovative new applications of radio technology."

The spectrum allocation comes as Boeing again begins to push the Connexion service, which began to falter in 2001 as the tech bubble burst. In May, Connexion sealed a definitive service agreement with Lufthansa, solidifying a two-year partnership with the German carrier. In June, one of its first customers, United Air Lines, which pulled out of its deal with Connexion in 2001, said it would equip all of its domestic flights with two-way email capability through the service by the end of the year. Last week, it forged another deal, this time with Scandinavian Airlines, which plans to install two of its planes with the service by February and equip the rest of its fleet by 2005.

Connexion was formed in April 2000 with the goal of equipping airlines' fleets with high-speed, satellite-based Internet connections. Boeing unveiled United Air Lines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines as customers in June 2001. It added Lufthansa days later. But with the subsequent downturn in the industry, United, Delta and American pulled out of the venture in November, 2001, leaving Lufthansa as the venture's sole customer. Other airlines, such as British Airways, are making trials of the technology.