• United States

Verizon rolling out airplane messaging system

Jun 05, 20032 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging AppsVerizon

* Profile of Verizon’s JetConnect airplane messaging system

Airlines have started deploying Verizon Airfone’s JetConnect system for providing messaging on airplanes, and Verizon hopes to have it available on 1,000 aircraft by year-end.

JetConnect provides text messaging, instant messaging and information services. The system has news stories, stock tickers, airline-specific information and weather data updated every 15 minutes. The system also offers Java-based games that do not require the user to download plug-ins or other software.

Unlike JetConnect Premium – technology for which is being provided by Tenzing, as discussed in an earlier column – JetConnect does not provide true e-mail, and messages are limited to 300 characters. However, the system supports AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and ICQ. Up to 46 people can communicate with the onboard server simultaneously with V.90 in-seat data rates (up to 52K bit/sec). Pricing per flight for JetConnect is $5.99.

Verizon began initial trials of the system in late 2002 and began deploying the system in January. The first customer, Continental Airlines, has deployed the system on all of its aircraft. United Airlines has committed to the JetConnect service, and US Airways and Delta Airlines are also evaluating the system.

Verizon will start promoting JetConnect in August or September.

For the future, Verizon is looking at the possibility of passengers using Wi-Fi aboard aircraft. At present, there are some aircraft-based closed-loop Wi-Fi systems in place for fire detection systems, and there are some Wi-Fi trials underway for security systems.

However, Verizon anticipates that wireless capabilities will be available to passengers within five years, allowing passengers to communicate via wireless with the onboard server, as well as with each other in collaborative networks. Communication speeds are anticipated to be 2.5M bit/sec to the aircraft and 200K bit/sec to 400K bit/sec from the aircraft, up several orders of magnitude from current data rates.