Singapore Airlines unplugs in-flight e-mail

Sending and receiving e-mail while flying with the Singapore girl is now off the menu.

SINGAPORE--Sending and receiving e-mail while flying with the Singapore girl is now off the menu.

The in-flight Internet service, which has been testing since April, has been withdrawn. The carrier had been the first airline to offer such a service.

In a statement, Singapore Airlines Ltd. said that "we had no problems with system stability and reliability." However, it said that its technology provider, Tenzing Communications Inc., had decided "to review its development plans in light of the prevailing economic situation," and the in-flight e-mail service was being affected.

However, Seattle-based Tenzing had a different version. Spokesman Laura Alipala told The Business Times that SIA, FinnAir and SwissAir, had all "postponed any further program implementation because of the adverse market conditions after 11 September."

Tenzing told the paper that is implementation the service for other customers such as Air Canada, Varig and Virgin Atlantic.

Whatever the case, SIA maintains that it has not scrapped the idea altogether, "but at this stage we do not have any idea when this could be," BT quoted an SIA spokesman as saying.

"We are looking at several proposals and exploring the possibilities," the spokesman told Dow Jones.

If Tenzing's system is not a possibility, one alternative is Connexion by Boeing, which is developing full-capacity broadband in order to offer real-time Internet service, similar to that on the ground. Tenzing's, on the other hand, uses a "cache" stored in an on-board computer which forwards e-mails to the ground and back every 20 minutes.

Of course, the bleak economic situation could still throw up some turbulence in the push to in-flight e-mail. BT reports that Tenzing laid off almost half of its 150 employees, and Connexion has reduced its 645 headcount by nearly 65 percent.


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