Boeing Frontiers
April 2003
Volume 01, Issue 11
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Industry Wrap

Tenzing's hopes high for Internet

Tenzing Communications has upped the ante in its race with rival Connexion by Boeing to make Internet connectivity common on airline flights, according to USA Today.

About 40 Cathay Pacific Airways jets are using Tenzing's technology. It lets passengers tap a laptop computer into an aircraft's existing satellite radio, which then links up with ground-based e-mail and mobile phone text-messaging systems every 15 minutes. Now, Tenzing is teaming with Rockwell Collins Avionics to market a new type of satellite radio that quickens the e-mail linkup while also allowing passengers to access virtual private networks and surf the Web at dial-up speed, the newspaper said.

Boeing rival Airbus will make the radio available as an option on jets rolling out of its factories in Germany and France, and carriers can retrofit the radio on jets in service. Rockwell and Airbus both own equity stakes in Seattle-based Tenzing.

While Tenzing concentrates on popularizing in-flight e-mail and text messaging, Boeing is taking a different approach. Its Connexion service requires installation of a dedicated satellite radio and special antenna to provide passengers with a full real-time Internet connection at broadband speed.

In January, Lufthansa launched a free trial Connexion service, which enables passengers on one of its Boeing 747-400s to e-mail, shop online and access files at broadband speed. In February, British Airways began a similar demonstration on a 747-400. Early in 2004, Japan Airlines and SAS also plan to launch Connexion services.

Boeing has staked out territory among travelers who want high-speed connections. "Business travelers prefer a rich service, rather than just messaging capability,'' Connexion by Boeing's Sherry Nebel told USA Today. "Our research shows they are willing to pay for those types of benefits.''

Richard Aboulafia, Teal Group aerospace analyst, thinks Boeing is on the right track. "I think it could turn out to be more of a market for a premium service,'' he told the newspaper. "After all, it's very cumbersome to do work in an economy-class seat.''

But John Wade, Tenzing's executive vice president, contends Tenzing's cheaper service will appeal to a broader market, which he told USA Today makes introducing Tenzing's system less risky for carriers. Cathay Pacific Airways charges $10 to $20 for the service.


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