Telenor Satellite Services is in the final stages of testing an in-flight e-mail, web browsing and file-transfer service.
Based on Inmarsat's Swift64 technology, the service runs over an MPDS (mobile packet data service) link and is much more suited to in-flight e-mail and internet services than Telenor's existing Swift ISDN service, said Bernt Fanghol, director of program management for Telenor's aeronautical business.
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"ISDN is a fixed 64Kbps link that has been used for video conferencing and high-speed data transfers. MPDS will be much more effective [for internet services] because it's packet based, and you pay for the kilobits you use, not for minutes," he added.
Fanghol acknowledged that the MPDS service, at 15Kbps to 20Kbps, is slower than ISDN, but for burst-oriented services such as e-mail it will be more economical.
Target customers are commercial airlines, government air services and private business jets.
The service, now in the final stages of beta testing, will not be launched commercially until Telenor, hardware supplier EMS Technologies and Inmarsat feel certain that it is completely ready, although Telenor spokesman Tom Surface predicted that the launch is likely to be by the third quarter of this year.
Gillian Law writes for ID News Service