What Is the Future of Airline Connectivity Post-Connexion?

The untimely but not unexpected announcement in mid-August that Boeing's broadband offering will be scrapped late this year has given pause to the emerging connectivity suitors.

Talk Is Cheap Air France, BMI and TAP all intend to test the OnAirsystem next year but Ryanair has jumped the queue by ordering it forits entire fleet, even ahead of the proving flights, assuming telecommunication regulators from the various countries okay the plan. Under the OnAir system, mobile phone operators will charge passengers at rates "in line with current international roaming charges" on passengers' normal monthly bills. Ryanair will receive a commission from OnAir on call revenues generated by passengers.

The system will start out using Inmarsat Swift 64 service, the legacy L-band network, and later will employ the new Inmarsat broadband service slated to go live in mid-2007. In 2008, OnAir plans to introduce data services through which passengers will be able to access theInternet with laptops or use webmail or webchat through IFEs. Koll says the data rate, up to 900 kbps to and from the aircraft, will be high enough for VoIP.

Rival AeroMobile, which is targeting long-haul routes, says priceswill be "aligned with current international GSM roaming rates." Peter Tuggey, director-sales and airline programs, says AeroMobile is a technology agnostic when it comes to the satellite connection, though the system will start initially using Swift 64. In terms of cabin politics, he says the system architecture will give the cabin crew the ability to "manage social aspects and limit disruptions to an absoluteminimum."

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