BA the latest to test Internet-in-the-sky

British Airways PLC (BA) is the second European airline after Lufthansa AG to agree to test a high-speed Internet service for aircraft supplied by The Boeing Co.

BA will test the Internet-in-the-sky technology, called Connexion by Boeing, for a period of three months beginning in February 2003, Boeing said Thursday.

The service uses satellites positioned 35,000 kilometers high to send and receive data from transceivers mounted on airplanes travelling at 900 kilometers per hour. The in-flight broadband technology will allow travelers to use their notebooks to surf the Web, send e-mail or even view live TV broadcasts.

Lufthansa, which agreed to test the in-flight Internet technology, plans a "live trial" in January 2003, a company spokesman said. "We have meanwhile equipped a 747 airplane, named Sachsen-Anhalt, with the satellite transceiver and other gear and are now waiting for Boeing to provide seamless satellite coverage across the Atlantic," the spokesman said. "At present, the company can't offer us this."

Initially, Lufthansa plans to offer in-flight Internet service on its Frankfurt-Washington route, the spokesman said.

Boeing is currently in talks with satellite operators to acquire transponder capacity and with radio frequency officials to receive licenses for sending and receiving data over the airwaves, a spokesman for Boeing in Hamburg said. "We expect to have the necessary satellite capacity and radio usage licenses in the coming months," the spokesman said.

Connexion by Boeing has not had a smooth takeoff. Aside from the delay in securing trans-Atlantic satellite capacity and radio licenses, in November 2001 the service lost its first three airline partners. The partners, American Airlines Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines Inc., withdrew their financial support, citing severe financial losses following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

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John Blau

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