By BRYAN CORLISS
As far as messages from the sky go, it doesn’t quite compare with, say, "Noah, build the ark."
But content issues aside, Monday marked a milestone in telecommunications, as Cathay Pacific Airways and Tenzing Communications teamed to successfully send the first aerial e-mail message, from a Boeing Co. 747-400 jet flying from Hong Kong to Seoul.
"We’re up here at 35,000 feet enjoying the best service in the world," Cathay Pacific staffers wrote to the airline’s director and chief operating officer, Philip Chen. They attached a digital photo of in-flight activities.
The test shows that Cathay Pacific is on track to be the first airline in the world to offer aerial e-mail, officials of both companies said.
"Our successful relationship with Cathay Pacific has enabled us to become the leader in in-flight e-mail and Internet by demonstrating and implementing the system well ahead of our competitors," said Alan Pellegrini, Tenzing’s chief operating officer.
Cathay plans to roll out the service during the second quarter of 2001 across its fleet, which includes Boeing 747s and 777s, along with Airbus 330s and 340s.
The service will include in-flight e-mail, as well as access to an Intranet service that will include limited Web surfing and a range of business Internet services. The system will allow passengers to use their notebook computers to access the service with a standard Universal Serial Bus connection.
Earlier this month, a Boeing subsidiary announced a partnership with Loral Skynet of Brazil to provide wireless Internet connections to jets crossing the North Atlantic.
In 2002, Loral will launch a satellite that Connexion by Boeing will use to provide broadband Internet access over the ocean. Connexion will start installing its service on board aircraft in 2001, and will start offering service over North America, expanding into Europe by 2002.
The Boeing service will include live television, data transmission and e-commerce as well as Internet service.
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