RealTime IT News

Connexion Deals for Europe-to-Asia Routes

Boeing Company business unit Connexion by Boeing moved to open up a new front for its airborne, high-speed Internet service Thursday evening with a deal that will allow it to support Asia-to-Europe airline routes.

Connexion secured an agreement with Tokyo-based Space Communications Corp. (SCC) to lease transponder capacity from that company's SUPERBIRD-C satellite, located at 144 degrees east. As part of the deal, SCC plans to establish and operate a satellite gateway (ground station) at the Ibaraki Satellite Control Center north of Tokyo.

The satellite gateway will provide a link between passengers using the service aboard commercial airliners and the terrestrial-based network.

"This agreement with SCC supports our plan to introduce real-time, two-way connectivity to airline passengers within one of the world's most technology-intensive regions," said Joe Shaheen, director of operational services for Connexion. "The leasing of Ku-band transponder capacity and establishment of the ground station at Ibaraki not only provides a robust Wide Area Network (WAN), but will ensure passengers have reliable, high-speed access to the data and entertainment services they want and need during flight."

Connexion said it plans to begin installing its services on commercial airliners that fly between Asia and Europe in early 2004.

The deal with SCC comes a little more than a month after Connexion got 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. Scott Carson, president of Connexion, said clearing that hurdle paved the way for the introduction of its service beginning next year.

Both the spectrum allocation and the SCC deal are signs of renewed activity at Connexion, 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. In July, it forged another deal, this time with Scandinavian Airlines, which plans to install two of its planes with the service by February, 2004, and equip the rest of its fleet by 2005.

British Airways is testing the technology, and Japan Airlines has announced its intentions to install the service on all its long-range aircraft.

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.