Airline passengers getting more data comm options

Tenzing Communications has joined aviation electronics maker Rockwell Collins and Airbus in an agreement to offer communications...

Tenzing Communications has joined aviation electronics maker Rockwell Collins and Airbus in an agreement to offer communications and data management systems and services to airlines and airline passengers.

Tenzing will join the partnership between Rockwell Collins and Airbus that was originally launched in July 2000. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, nor was a timeline for the roll-out of services, planned over three phases.

Tenzing will contribute its in-flight messaging communications to the partnership, including its proprietary software for running computer servers aboard aircraft.

The partnership already includes aviation electronics systems expertise from Rockwell Collins and the Airbus in-Flight Information System (AFIS) platform.

Boeing represents the most direct competition for Tenzing, Rockwell Collins and Airbus, with its Connexion by Boeing service, a broadband data communications service that relies on satellites to deliver Internet connectivity to aircraft.

Japan Airlines (JAL) yesterday announced its intention to work with Connexion by Boeing to offer Internet access on some of its aircraft flying between Japan and Europe.

Boeing was forced to rein in plans for Connexion by Boeing, when its three primary partners, AMR's American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and UAL's United Air Lines, withdrew financial support and pulled out of the Connexion project last year.

German airline Lufthansa AG is still involved with the project and is expected to become the first airline to make the Connexion by Boeing service available to its customers sometime this year.

Tenzing, Rockwell Collins and Airbus are taking a measured approach to its onboard airline Internet services, which will include e-mail, Internet, corporate intranet, live television and other entertainment services.

Tenzing already has the capability to allow passengers to send and receive e-mails in-flight over either a laptop or an in-seat video screen using a wireless LAN connection in the aircraft.

Tenzing's customers include Cathay Pacific Airways and the company has also teamed with Baker Electronics to offer CabinLINK, an in-flight, e-mail and Internet browsing service for corporate and private airline passengers.

In the first phase of three companies' services roll-out, users will be able to send and receive e-mails as well as short text messages (SMS) from their aircraft seats to and from cell phones on the ground, the companies said.

Phase two will include high-speed data communication links using the Swift64 system from Inmarsat and high-speed transceivers from Rockwell Collins, while phase three will involve adding broadband satellite connectivity to deliver live entertainment and television content.

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