If you crave high-speed Internet access while traveling on long flights, your dream recently got one step closer to reality. Aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. has received the clearance it needed from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide high-speed Internet access — which it calls Connexion by Boeing — on commercial aircraft.
The federal clearance is the latest hurdle the aerospace giant has passed since it announced Connexion by Boeing this past June. The service utilizes satellites to maintain continuous high-speed data transfer as the aircraft travels at hundreds of miles an hour. Passenger-based Internet access is only one aspect of the service. Boeing said Connexion by Boeing will also be used to exchange richer in-flight data between airline crews and ground stations. The company is also examining possible security benefits using the technology.
Connexion by Boeing prototype systems are already available in private and executive aircraft. Boeing’s recent tests — involving a specially equipped 737, according to the company — proved to the FCC that the Connexion by Boeing systems could work without causing interference to other users who depend on the same broadcast spectrum.
With federal regulatory approval out of the way, Boeing can begin to deploy Connexion by Boeing in new and existing airliners. But there may be some delay before domestic travelers see aircraft with the systems in place. When Boeing first announced plans to deploy Connexion by Boeing systems in new airliners this past summer, American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Airlines were all supposed to be on board with financial backing. Unfortunately, the weak travel market since September 11’s terrorist attacks caused those companies to back out of the arrangement in November.
Boeing said that it “remains on track” with German airline Lufthansa to equip some of its planes with the new service. Boeing expects to roll out a Lufthansa aircraft with a prototype version of the system in place some time in late 2002 or early 2003.