Aeroplane broadband is cleared for take-off

A new frequency band for aeronautical mobile-satellite services has been approved, meaning that airline passengers will be able to share high-speed Internet connections

The international body responsible for the allocation of radio spectrum has given its approval for airlines to provide broadband access on aeroplanes.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has decided that operators should be able to use the 14GHz to 14.5GHz band for links between aircraft and satellites. This will make it possible for passengers to share a high-speed Internet connection -- either wirelessly or through ports at their seats.

Aeroplane manufacturer Boeing is one of several operators developing methods of offering in-flight broadband. Its Connexion by Boeing business unit aims to have commercial services available in 2004.

"Clearing this critical hurdle paves the way for global introduction of our high-speed in-flight connectivity service beginning next year," said Scott Carson, president of Connexion by Boeing, in a statement. "Airlines are understanding the value that broadband connectivity brings -- not only for their passengers, but also for enhancing their own operations."

Connexion by Boeing began trialling its service in January 2003, in partnership with Lufthansa. It provides a 20Mbps downlink from the Internet to the plane, and a 1Mbps uplink.

When this trial launched, Carson told ZDNet UK that each passenger should be guaranteed a bandwidth of at least 156Kbps. Prices could be in the region of £22 per passenger per flight.

The ITU took its decision to open up the 14GHz to 14.5GHz band to aeronautical mobile satellite services at the World Radiocommunications Conference 2003, which ended this week.

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