Boeing casts eyes on live TV over Connexion service

The Boeing Co is planning to add live television to its Connexion by Boeing service during 2005, a company executive said in a recent interview.

The television programs will be delivered across the Connexion network, which uses satellites to provide high-speed data connections between aircraft in-flight and ground stations linked to the Internet. The service entered commercial use earlier this year and provides a 5M bps (bits per second) shared downstream and 1M bps shared upstream connection to suitably equipped aircraft.

"That'll begin in the middle of next year, covering our international route segments," said Stan Deal, vice president of commercial airlines at Boeing's Connexion unit. "You'll be able to view up to four channels of live TV over your laptop and we're very excited about that."

Boeing hasn't announced the names of the channels that will be available but they'll be international news and financial news channels, he said.

"Longer term we'll look at some of the live sporting content, probably in the 2006 time frame," he said.

The TV service will be launched first with Singapore Airlines and then rolled out to Connexion's other airline partners, Deal said. Singapore Airlines plans to begin offering Internet access via the service on its Singapore to London route from the first quarter of 2005.

The Connexion by Boeing service went into commercial use in May this year when Lufthansa began offering the service on flights between Europe and the U.S. The German airline currently offers service on flights between Frankfurt and Denver and on those between Munich and Charlotte, North Carolina; Los Angeles; Tehran, Iran; and Tokyo. It was launched by Japan's All Nippon Airways on flights between Tokyo and Shanghai in November.

December has seen the service launch on Japan Airlines System (JAL) flights between Tokyo and London and on Lufthansa flights between Munich and both Miami and San Francisco. SAS' Scandinavian Airline Systems has also launched the service and will initially offer it on flights between Copenhagen and Seattle.

The launch of Connexion has increased interest in the service from other airlines, said Deal. A group of airlines have been waiting to see the service launch and passenger reaction before signing for the service.

"Having Lufthansa out and running and then ANA, JAL and SAS, I think that'll allow that next group to feel like risk is being collapsed," Deal said. "You'll see some announcements shortly with regard to additional airlines."

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