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Boeing Airs Plan for In-Flight Communications Service

The Boeing Co. Thursday revealed plans to develop a global communications network that will provide air travelers with an array of high-speed data communication services via a space-based network.

Commercial airline passengers soon will be able to access the Internet, e-mail, television, news and information in real-time at 40,000 feet, using the network, dubbed Connexion by Boeing. Intended to extend home- and office-like connectivity into the skies, the Boeing (BA) mobile broadband service is expected to have a price comparable to cellular phone service. Other applications for the communications system will include corporate and private business jets, U.S. government platform and aircraft health monitoring.

Digital broadband capability, which provides increased bandwidth for two-way interactive applications, will allow customers to send and receive data at rates equivalent to cable Internet access. Boeing will use advanced antenna technology and existing satellites, while extending to a mix of new and existing satellites as the service matures.

To date, Boeing has signed memoranda of agreement with CNN Inflight Services, Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Alenia Spazio, Loral Skynet Matsushita Avionics Systems Corp. and CNBC. The company has ongoing negotiations with prospective airline partners, and additional content and service suppliers.

The introduction of the service follows the pending acquisition of Hughes Space & Communications and signals the move by Boeing into commercial, space-based communications markets. Boeing is regarded as a leader in the aerospace industry; its capabilities include the manufacture of commercial jetliners, military aircraft, rotorcraft, electronic and defense systems, missiles, rocket engines, launch vehicles and advanced information and communication systems.

"Clearly, this is an exciting growth market," said Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Space and Communications Group.

"Commercial information and communications are areas where we understand the customer, where we bring unique solutions no one else has the capabilities or resources to provide, and where we can apply our knowledge of large-scale systems integration to provide mobile users seamless connectivity."