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Iberia takes Tenzing's high-flying broadband

Battle over $5bn in-flight data access market heats up
Written by Ron Coates, Contributor on

Battle over $5bn in-flight data access market heats up

Iberia has signed Airbus-backed Tenzing to keep its business passengers in touch in the air.

The airline will start installing the systems in the business class sections of its long-haul airbus fleet in October. The companies are not revealing specifics of the deal, including pricing, at this stage.

The move still leaves Boeing with a slight lead in the battle over a market that the plane-maker estimates could be worth $5bn-$8bn as bored travellers take to online games and work rather than in-flight movies.

Airlines have yet to rush to snap up the technology, however. Lufthansa will be first in the sky with the Boeing system with SAS close behind. But it will take the German airline until 2005 to install the system in all its 80 long-haul aeroplanes.

Japan Airlines and ANA have signed agreements for the Boeing system with Singapore Airlines and China Airlines expressing interest.

On the Tenzing side, it has signed Emirates - which is claiming to be first in the sky with broadband - and a stripped-down version of its system is being used by the US domestic airlines under the Verizon Airfone JetConnect label.

Despite this slow rollout both Boeing and Tenzing are gung-ho about the possibilities. Boeing quotes Forrester Research to the effect that 38 per cent of frequent travellers would pay at least $25 per flight for "full, high-speed access to their corporate network".

Mark Darby, MD of airline consultancy Aviation Strategy, said: "It seems the way to go. We'll see it more and more in the future."

Robin Duke-Woolley, director of technology consultant E-principles, agrees. He said, "You've already got laptops on planes and the wireless LAN technology is here – hotspots are spreading – so it will soon be standard."

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