Email service will be available on all domestic flights in North America before the end of next year, although services elsewhere in the world will take two to three years to become widespread, according to the chief executive officer of Tenzing Communications, which provides technology and services for in-flight messaging.
United Air Linesannounced a deal with Tenzing last week to provide email on about 400 of its North American domestic flights by the end of this year. The service piggybacks on United's JetConnect service, offered with Verizon Communications and is priced at $US15.98 for up to 2KB of data, and $0.10 for each additional kilobyte.
Tenzing will announce similar deals with other airlines in the coming months, said Alan McGinnis, chief executive officer of the privately held company. All domestic flights in North America will be equipped for email by the end of next year, he predicted.
"You'll see a lot of deals along the lines of 'Tenzing plus Verizon plus blank [airline]'," he said.
Passengers already can send email on some United flights by connecting their laptops to existing JetConnect service. Sending email that way is prohibitively expensive, however, and JetConnect wasn't designed for transmitting data, according to McGinnis. JetConnect with Email, the enhanced service being rolled out by United, is supposed to address those issues.
Verizon's network allows for a data connection speed of 9.6K bps (bits per second) in North America, McGinnis said. Tenzing's main rival is The Boeing Co.'s Connexion by Boeing, which allows passengers to surf the Web via a high-speed broadband connection as well as to send and receive email. Lufthansa AG said last month that it would equip its fleet of about 80 long-haul aircraft with the service beginning early next year.
Airbus SAS, one of Boeing's chief rivals, was an investor in Tenzing, along with Cathay Pacific and Rockwell Collins, McGinnis said.
He said that broadband services would dominate the skies eventually, but argued that Tenzing's service was currently the best option for cash-starved airlines because the service required only a software upgrade, meaning it's relatively cheap to implement. Connexion by Boeing requires airlines to fit their planes with new equipment to provide the broadband connection.
Tenzing hoped to evolve its service to higher speeds over time by piggybacking on top of new, faster communications equipment that it expected would be fitted to aircraft as standard in the near future, McGinnis said.
Services outside of North America will likely take longer to implement, he said, because of the time involved in brokering deals, regulatory issues and other concerns.