Travelers could soon log on from 30,000 feet

Boeing and iPass plan to announce technology that will bring Net access to some flights.

Networking
Business travelers will be able to surf the Web securely on long-distance flights by combining services from Boeing and iPass, the companies plan to announce on Monday.

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based iPass, which makes software that connects travelers to their offices from remote locations, said corporate customers will be able to connect to the Web on planes within six months using wireless links from Boeing.

The companies are betting that business travelers, who already connect their laptop computers wirelessly in hotels, cafes and airports around the world, want to stay connected on the plane.

The market for the airborne Internet has been slow to develop. Northern Sky Research predicts that the market could grow to between $200 million and $300 million by 2008 from roughly $5 million to $10 million this year.

So far Boeing only provides Internet links on a few long-haul routes for German carrier Lufthansa, but it said seven airlines have plans to outfit their planes.

The aerospace company recently signed up Germany's Siemens as its first large corporate client.

Boeing sets up so-called wireless hot spots in the sky by using satellites to deliver the Internet to planes and extending these links to passengers' laptops via Wi-Fi, short-range wireless links that work on most laptops.

Customers of iPass will not need to sign for a separate service to use the Boeing links. iPass hasn't finalized how much it plans to charge for the on-board service.

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.

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