By Roger Yu, USA TODAY
Executives who travel on corporate jets may soon be finding in-flight
high-speed Internet a common feature.
Only Annapolis, Md.-based Arinc is on the market now with a broadband
service for corporate jets. But competition is set to intensify in 2006.
. Radio equipment maker Rockwell Collins and aviation giant Boeing
have teamed to introduce theirs next spring.
. Inmarsat, a British avionics maker that now has a dial-up-speed
Internet service for corporate jets, will roll out a broadband product
later in the year.
Special plane antennas link to satellites to provide the Internet
access. Driving the new interest providing the service in the
corporate jet market:
. Productivity. High-level executives can ill afford to be away from
the Internet, particularly e-mail, for long flights. "It's become an
extension of office," says corporate pilot Mike Moore, who flies a
Gulfstream G4 for a West Coast technology firm.
. Cost. The service remains costly, but it's coming down. Howard
Lewis of Satcom Direct, a reseller of in-flight Internet and phone
services, estimates hardware and installation of the current Inmarsat
service can cost up to $400,000. A connection runs about $8 a
minute. Initially, broadband equipment is unlikely to be cheaper,
though per-minute rates will be less, says Lewis.
. Technology. The new generation of services will be much improved,
says Steve Pope, an editor at Aviation International News. Initially,
only the owners of large jets -- such as Gulfstream G450, Bombardier
Global 5000 and Dassault Falcon -- will buy, he says. The tail-mounted
antennas are too big from smaller jets.
. Airlines. The market is flat for commercial jets, diverting
suppliers' interest to business jets. Connexion by Boeing, the
aerospace giant's wireless unit, has managed to attract some foreign
airlines like Lufthansa and Singapore to the broadband service it
rolled out in 2004. About 100 foreign commercial airplanes have been
So far, financially struggling U.S. carriers have not offered
in-flight broadband, though United has plans to offer it by the end of
Including Inmarsat's dial-up-speed service, an estimated 600 corporate
jets now have Internet service.
Arinc executive Bob Thompson estimates about 1,500 corporate jets -
about 17% of corporate jets worldwide - have tail sections large
enough for the current technology. As the size of antennas shrink with
technological improvements, he says, the market for broadband will
"After a year or two, the number of business jets (with broadband
Internet) will far outstrip the number of commercial airlines," says
Copyright 2005 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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