Boeing is to lease space on a satellite above the Atlantic Ocean, filling a coverage gap in its Connexion by Boeing in-flight internet service.
The leasing agreement is for two transponders on the Intelsat 907 satellite, which is stationed above the Atlantic Ocean at 27.5 degrees west, the company said.
The Ku-band spot-beam coverage provided by the transponders encompasses northern and Central Europe, Iceland and the eastern part of Greenland and will be used by Connexion to service aircraft flying between Europe and North America.
The service offers a broadband internet connection to passengers on aircraft on which the system has been installed. Transmission speeds vary with conditions but maximum capacity is 20Mbps downstream to the aircraft and 1Mbps upstream from the aircraft.
To date, two European airlines, Lufthansa and British Airways, have run service trials. Both Lufthansa and Scandinavian Airline Systems have signed definitive agreements to install the system on long-haul jets.
Commercial service on both airlines is scheduled to begin in early 2004. Two Japanese airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines System have signed letters of intent to install the system. Boeing has yet to announce definitive agreements with the airlines.
The lease of transponders on Intelsat 907 comes shortly after Boeing signed for space on Eutelsat's SESAT satellite at 36 degrees east, which will provide coverage over Europe, and Space Communications' Superbird-C satellite at 144 degrees East, which will provide coverage of Asia and routes from Asia to Europe.
The latest announcement means the Connexion by Boeing network now covers many of the major intercontinental airline routes in the northern hemisphere.
In addition to adding coverage of other regions in the future, the system will also be enhanced with the addition of backup capacity, said Terrance Scott, a spokesman for Boeing.
Next year the service plans to make use of space on Loral's Estrela do Sul spacecraft, which is scheduled for launch in early 2004, Scott said.
Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service