Telenor Satellite Services is in the final stages of testing an in-flight email, Web browsing and file-transfer service. Based on Inmarsat's Swift64 technology, the new service runs over an MPDS (mobile packet data service) link and is better suited to in-flight email and Internet services than Telenor's current Swift ISDN service, according to director of program management for Telenor's aeronautical business, Bernt Fanghol.
"ISDN is a fixed 64K bps (bits per second) 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," Fanghol said.
The MPDS service, at 15K bps to 20K bps, is slower than ISDN, but for burst-oriented services like email it would be more economical, he said.
Target customers were commercial airlines, government air services and private business jets, Fanghol said.
The service, currently in the final stages of beta testing, will not be commercially launched until Telenor, hardware supplier EMS Technologies and Inmarsat feel certain that it is completely ready, but it was likely to be launched by the third quarter of this year, Telenor spokesman, Tom Surface, said.
Pricing had not yet been established, Surface said.
On-board email and Web access is becoming big news as airlines try to differentiate themselves and attract corporate customers.
On June 17, United Air Lines announced that it would offer in-flight email on all US flights by the end of the year. A week later Alan McGinnis, the chief executive officer of Tenzing Communications, which provides United's in-flight services, predicted that all US flights would offer the service by the end of 2004.