The Internet Goes Airborne

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Forget the six-month-old movies and TV reruns, you'll soon be able to surf the Internet on some airlines and we have to wonder if GA applications (especially the experimental kind) can be far behind. Connexion by Boeing announced this week that at least five airlines (none of them American) have confirmed plans to install high-speed wireless internet service on planes used for long-haul flights. The systems allow laptop users to access Internet, intranet and e-mail in the air. They'll even allow e-mail exchanges between computers on different aircraft. "History will record 2004 as the year when air travelers for the first time could choose to be connected while in flight to family, colleagues and friends," said Connexion President Scott Carson. The system uses satellite signals to relay the data between ground-based Internet service providers and the aircraft. Last year, the World Radiocommunication Conference approved a range of radio frequencies for this type of use. Lufthansa will be the first to launch the service and Singapore, All-Nippon, Scandinavian and Japan Airlines have all said they'll be plugging in, too. Bizjet companies are also naturally embracing the technology. Kingdom Holding of Saudi Arabia will be the first and will equip a Boeing 747 with the system.