In-flight internet in jeopardy at Boeing

Reports suggest airline maker may soon dump airborne internet access

Reports last week indicate Boeing may soon dump its in-flight internet venture Connexion because the service hasn't generated a profit in six years.

Citing people familiar with the situation, The Wall Street Journal reported that Boeing has inquired with a number of commercial-satellite operators and other potential suitors who might be interested in buying the business or becoming a major partner.

If Boeing can't find a suitable buyer or partner, the services could end. Connexion enables passengers to have high-speed Internet hookups, via satellite, in-flight at a cost of US$10-$27 (NZ$16-$44).

In the Wall Street Journal story, Boeing said it was evaluating the long-term business model for Connexion to assess what's best for both the business and its customers. "The system's performing well, we know we have a useful product, but we're trying to determine how good a business we have."

Reports say the business, or lack thereof, is largely due to disinterest from US airlines in outfitting their fleets with the system. International carriers including Lufthansa, Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines offer the service.

The Boeing news comes on the heels of news earlier this month that Verizon Airfone dropped out of the bidding for wireless airwaves that would have enabled it to provide wireless broadband service on aeroplanes. Airfone uses narrowband phones in seatbacks. The voice-only service also has not been widely used.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently sold licenses for 4 MHz of the 800-MHz spectrum that Verizon now uses for its Airfone. The 4 MHz of spectrum is intended as an air-to-ground "backhaul" for wireless services accessed by multiple devices on a plane. Those services could include broadband internet access and other data services as well as voice, the agency said last year.

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Tags boeinginternet

More about Boeing AustraliaFCCFederal Communications CommissionJapan AirlinesLufthansaSingapore AirlinesUS Federal Communications CommissionVerizonVerizonWall Street

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