Boeing to Disconnect In-Flight Internet Users

Boeing Company has announced it will be phasing out Connexion by Boeing, a service that enables airlines to provide in-flight satellite-based Internet to passengers. Existing customers include Lufthansa, Air China, and Korean Air among others. The reason for the discontinuation is a lack of profitability. With the rising cost of fuel and other expenses, airlines have been reluctant to subscribe to the Connexion by Boeing service though it’s been available for six years. Another problem is that most airplanes are simply too old to accommodate the newer technology. Retrofitting older aircraft with on-board communications systems is expensive and not usually cost-effective. Installing the necessary wiring in new aircraft is cheaper, but most airlines can’t afford to invest in new airplanes now or anytime in the immediate future.

Boeing isn’t the only company to back out of the in-flight communications business. Verizon Communications will cancel its in-flight phone service before the end of 2006. All is not hopeless for the future of in-flight wireless services, however. In early June of this year, Jet Blue Airways Corporation won a 1-megahertz frequency band auctioned off by the FCC. Jet Blue can now use that frequency to provide in-flight Internet, entertainment, or telephone service to passengers. More than likely, future Jet Blue flights will provide services to passengers through their LiveTV LLC subsidiary. Because of FCC rules, Jet Blue will also have the option of offering in-flight LiveTV to competing airlines. AirCell has also gained a new license will be providing in-flight broadband to business aircraft and commercial airlines in the United States.